The chairman of an action group set up to fight proposals for 3,000 homes between Weston Turville and Bedgrove has hailed a decision to dismiss an appeal from developers – but warned that this may not be the end of the saga.
The Hampden Fields action group raised £65,000 to employ lawyers and expert witnesses who spoke at the appeal on their behalf, while also collecting 8,500 objections against the scheme.
Phil Yerby, who chairs the group, said: “This was a real community effort and it is an absolutely fantastic victory for the people of Aylesbury who got together and gave their hard earned money to fight it. The inspector has listened to what the people said and I congratulate him for that.”
However, he warned that the report gives ‘encouragement’ to developers The Hampden Fields Consortium, which has six weeks to appeal the decision.
The report says that the scheme’s benefits would be ‘very substantial and sufficient to outweigh the shortcomings of all but one of the main considerations’, which was the impact on already congested town centre roads.
During the appeal the consortium said this impact could be mitigated by changing the layout of the gyratory. This involved closing the link between Walton Street north and south by the Aristocrat pub, meaning drivers would have to go down to the roundabout by the Waterside Theatre and come back up the other side of Walton Street if they wanted to get from Stoke Road to Wendover Road or Walton Road. As a result, the district council – on advice from Bucks County Council – removed its objection on transport grounds.
The inspector said the benefits of changing the gyratory ‘would be substantial’. However, it would require planning permission which is not guaranteed. Therefore, it ‘would not make sound planning sense to approve a major urban extension with known highway deficiencies, an incomplete solution and uncertainties about deliverability until it can be demonstrated that the full effects of the appeal scheme can be mitigated, managed and implemented’.
Mr Yerby, who is a UKIP district councillor, said the inspector’s reservations about the highways showed that the council had been wrong to remove its objections on transport grounds.
He said: “Thank goodness the residents still continued to object.”
He called on the council to get its local plan, which sets out where more than 30,000 homes should be located in the Vale by 2034, ratified as quickly as possible, as only this will protect the district against ‘opportunistic’ applications such as Hampden Fields. The council hopes the local plan will be implemented during 2016.
Mr Yerby said: “This decision buys us time and the council must not fail us.
“We are not fooling ourselves that we won’t be in a long battle over the next 10 years.”
A spokesman for the Hampden Fields Consortium said: “We are very disappointed at the appeal decision particularly as the Secretary of State acknowledged that the benefits of the project would be very substantial and would outweigh the shortcomings of all but one of the main considerations. The exception being the lack of guarantee that the improvements to the Walton Street gyratory could be delivered.
“We will thoroughly review the decision notice before deciding on our future actions.”
Conservative Bedgrove councillor Mark Winn said: “I am very pleased on behalf of residents in Bedgrove and elsewhere in Aylesbury that the Planning Inspector has decided to back AVDC’s decision to reject the planned development of Hampden Fields. The main reason I fought to stop Hampden fields, was because I believe, as residents do, that 3,000 homes on this site without significant new roads would bring our already strained infrastructure to breaking point.
“To stop further speculative applications of this type we simply must get on with putting in place the Vale of Aylesbury Plan, and I know AVDC are working as speedily as possible to achieve this.”
Aylesbury MP David Lidington said: “I supported the campaigns by Weston Turville Parish Council and the Hampden Fields Action Group and submitted detailed objections to AVDC, then to the Inspector and finally lobbied the Minister. This decision shows that the Inspector and Minister listened to our arguments locally about the threat to village identities and the impact on traffic and public services.”