Hampden Fields dominates this week’s round-up from the letters page.
Clarifying my view
I wish to make it clear that last week’s front page article linking me to a view that I felt opposing the plans to build 3,000 houses on Hampden fields would be futile was in fact not strictly true.
I did say that, “so much development in the past has lacked infrastructure, but this time we are seeing infrastructure”, but that does not mean I think any opposition is futile and I wish to make it very clear that I am very willing to advise residents in how they could object to these plans and I’m happy to put in comments on their behalf.
One resident has already pointed out on your website, that they and others wished to oppose these plans and felt that by saying opposition was futile I would not be able to do so.
This is why it is very important to set the record straight now, I did not say opposition was futile.
I was proudly elected for a second term in Bedgrove last May to represent the views of residents and I will continue to do so on Hampden fields and any issue.
Therefore, if residents are worried that the dual carriageway road is close to their homes, I will ensure that a case is made for proper noise shielding.
If they believe the connection between the dual carriageway and Wendover road is an issue, I will push for a roundabout to be built on the road.
I am happy to ensure any issue they wish to address is properly examined.
This is my job as their councillor and I will never shirk from this task or deny Bedgrove residents the opportunity to have their say.
In fact, before these new plans were published, I have been speaking to the developers directly and been trying, if this development goes ahead, to get the best possible deal for residents. I would like to think that some of the discussions we had brought improvements to their published plans.
When I was first shown what was proposed, there was a singe carriageway road rather than a dual carriageway. I pointed out that a dual carriageway was required, otherwise Aylesbury would be getting nothing extra out of these plans in terms of infrastructure, just 3,000 houses.
The Woodlands development for example on the other side of the Tring road, which plans to bring 9,000 much needed jobs to the town only has a single carriageway, I say this now and I have said this to the developers this road must be a dual carriageway, otherwise we are missing a trick and failing to provide the required level of infrastructure for our town.
My welcoming a dual carriageway now does not mean that I believe opposition to the development is futile, it means that I am pleased Aylesbury is getting something at last to improve its infrastructure, having for so long seen development after development that provides little or no improvement to its infrastructure.
Some may make the argument that the road would bring no improvement to Aylesbury and would add to existing traffic congestion problems such as those at the gyratory.
As someone who drives through the gyratory every day I would dispute this, it goes some way towards making an improvement.
Consider this, I work in a village between Princes Risborough and High Wycombe.
To go east from work, I often have to pick up the A421 near Milton Keynes, which involves a journey through Aylesbury and the gyratory. With a dual carriageway at Hampden Fields, I would use that road then pick up the road through Woodlands, then the new road being built through the Aylesbury East development and then go out on the A418 towards Milton Keynes.
The dual carriageway at Hampden Fields is part of the infrastructure jigsaw. I hope others being built such as the Stoke Mandeville bypass which HS2 or the county council may or may not build, the Stocklake link road now being built, the road between the Buckingham Park and Berryfields development now open would make it possible to avoid the gyratory and the centre of Aylesbury full stop.
This would definitely bring improvement to traffic, how could it not?
You will be making the routes around Aylesbury accessible from North South, East and West, but you could take them without once having to enter the town centre, you try that now, its impossible.
The other major gain for Bedgrove residents that I have fought for, is much-needed mitigation in the form of road safety measures.
Getting onwards for a thousand residents signed two petitions I put together for sites for a zebra and pelican crossing in Cambourne Avenue and Bedgrove, at spots where a two-year-old toddler and where a more senior resident were knocked over.
The county council would not pay for the crossings, despite these serious accidents and despite the local support for them.
I have therefore requested and got a promise from the developers to build both crossings if Hampden fields goes ahead. A real benefit to residents paid for by developers not by the county council who refused to do so.
I mention this, not because I want to sell or support this proposed development, but merely to illustrate how changes can and have been sought to the proposed development.
Additionally, I say so as someone who opposed the first proposed development at Hampden fields and even spoke at the inquiry against the effects their original plans would have had on the gyratory and the wider town.
Yes, this new plan is an improvement in many ways, because of the infrastructure that has been added in the form of a dual carriageway and the mitigation that will be built if it happens.
But saying this is certainly not me agreeing that resistance to it is futile and nor is it me saying we can’t seek further improvements or changes to it beyond what has already been won.
District councillor for Bedgrove (Conservative)
Not all it seems
So Hampden Fields is back, a year after the Secretary of State rejected the plans.
This time the developers seem to have promised the earth with the aim of fooling the public and local councillors into thinking there is absolutely no point objecting - indeed you report in your last edition that one councillor thought it would be ‘futile’ to object.
I hope that is not the generally held view among our elected representatives - not if they want to be re-elected.
But just spend an hour actually looking at this application and things start to fall apart.
We were promised a Dual Carriageway from the A41 to A413. It is even on the drawings that go with the application.
But if you look further into the detail there is absolutely no firm commitment to build a dual carriageway between the two points. The supposedly “strategic” road has at least 3 sets of traffic lights, a roundabout and no less than 4 public rights of way across it, which will have to be pedestrian or zebra crossings. All this is supposed to miraculously relieve traffic into the centre of Aylesbury.
We were promised 35% affordable homes for those who need them but there is absolutely no commitment to build any affordable homes at all. Instead the developer has committed to a “viability study” to assess what they might build at some vague point after their development has been approved by AVDC’s planning committee.
We were promised traffic calming for both Bedgrove and Weston Turville but none of these form part of this application.
There is no doctor’s surgery for this new town, merely a “provision” of space - a bit of a field left empty for a surgery that no one else can possibly afford to build.
I am sure that local residents will continue to look into the whole thing in depth, and I expect will identify more elements that do not stack up. I encourage all your readers and their elected representatives to do the same and make up their own minds.
For now, one could be forgiven for judging that this application leaves a strong taste of ‘PR fudge’.
Doomed to failure
The Hampden Fields application has returned, as we always knew it would.
I have lived in Aylesbury long enough to remember when much of what is now my own council ward was green fields, and when almost all us children walked to school with no fear of having to navigate traffic jams.
And thinking back to my twenties, I can remember when a student nurse could afford to take a mortgage out on a small flat.
Now my newly-qualified colleagues have to rent rooms.
I was quoted in last week’s Herald as saying that opposition to this proposal would be “futile”.
It’s important to say that I certainly don’t mean that the scheme is a done deal as it is, or that problems won’t be revealed on examination or that changes won’t be fought for and agreed.
That’s to be expected.
But in my opinion, based on the planning inspector’s previous findings which are accessible to anyone online, wholesale opposition to the principle of development on this site is doomed to failure.
It’s important to understand that, I think, and proceed from that assumption when working out how to respond.
The government has made it very clear, through planning guidance and by ministerial demand, that we are expected to build, and rapidly.
Councils were fed a line at one time that they could choose for themselves how much housing they wanted, and we who were councillors last term can reasonably be criticised for taking that seriously.
It’s clear now that tens of thousands of houses are coming to the Vale, and that the government will force approval, if it needs to, through the planning system.
Cllr Mark Winn and I have been working together to try to make sure that any impact on Bedgrove is understood and alleviated.
Iwould certainly encourage residents to comment on this application, and criticise it where necessary.
That wouldn’t be futile at all, but very helpful.
Thousands of houses are going to come, and we have to make the best of it, somehow. In this part of the country, only the rich or those who have been given or inherited money can afford to buy somewhere decent to live.
That’s an insult and an injustice to the young.
Naturally, politicians are largely to blame for this situation, but new building is surely a significant part of the solution.
Some of those opposed to the Hampden Fields proposals live in properties built on what I can remember being open fields.
That’s not meant as a criticism, but as an acknowledgement that the world always seems to be changing beneath our feet.
If Hampden Fields does have to be built, let’s work together to make it the best it can be.
Development does not have to mean the end for what we love and value in this town.
District councillor for Bedgrove (Independent)
It is not futile
How disappointing it is to hear that AVDC Councillors believe that opposition to the renewed Hampden Fields application is “futile” (Bucks Herald, front page 9th February).
What has become of our democracy that things are completely decided well before the public even has a chance to see what is proposed or have their say?
Obviously their bosses have told them what to do and they fall compliantly into line so I question, do they really care what the public think of it?
The irony was simply staggering when I learned that one of the AVDC Cllrs to make this remark was Tom Hunter Watts.
This is the same Tom Hunter Watts who resigned from the Tory Party in what one might call a “futile” gesture over the Government decision to bomb Syria.
We haven’t seen that make any difference.
It appears one person’s gesture of futility, is another’s stance in principle.
So, good on the Hampden Fields Action Group for taking a stance in principle on our behalf, when no politician is prepared to stand up for us.
I have already donated online and if many more of us do the same maybe we will at least have some scrutiny on this very controversial proposal.
Take a big Leap
On Monday February 29, I want you all to have a photograph taken of you leaping in the air with your colleagues.
And yes, I am being serious, and yes, it is important.
The aim is for all firms and all of their staff to recognise the huge value in taking an activity break during the working day.
Evidence shows that taking breaks during the day protects the health of workers and also benefits companies because it improves productivity and morale, as well as cutting down on sickness absence.
But despite this, we all know of the office ‘martyrs’ who sit all day chained to their desks without respite because they think they have no time to spare for a break. And yet, if they were only to take an hour walk, run or a swim, they would come back refreshed and be able to work faster and more effectively. Try it if you don’t believe me.
My organisation Leap – the Sport and Activity Partnership for Bucks & MK – is determined to lead the way in this so we could hardly ignore the potential of Leap Day on February 29, could we?
We have asked companies across Bucks to take part in the fun initiative of getting staff to literally take a leap on Leap Day – and we have been impressed with the take-up of interest.
Remember, this is not just for fitness fanatics. Half an hour a day of exercise would be of huge benefit for an inactive person, more so actually than it would be for a marathon runner.
Leap Year, like the Olympics, only comes around once every four years so this is a call to action to workers and companies. But we would hope that once people get in the habit of taking active breaks, they maintain this all year round.
So yes, perhaps you may feel a bit silly jumping in the air for the cameras on Leap Day. But I assure you that you’ll feel a lot worse if you fall ill and have to take time off from work because you never gave yourself an energising break.
I hope all workers take the Leap on Leap Day for Leap. You won’t regret it.
Director of Leap, The Sport And Activity Partnership for Bucks & MK
I write in respect of the letter from Mr Ken Evans in the Bucks Herald dated 10th February 2016 regarding ADOS.
Thank you, Ken, for standing up for ADOS and giving such a vivid picture of all that ADOS did for so many years.
I was a member of ADOS for thirty-odd years and, along with other members, thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
We rehearsed two evenings a week and in the course of a year, we produced a big musical, a play, a showtime for a named charity and a pantomime. We had excellent audiences and any profit, plus a small grant from the local council, saw us through the next production, which again followed the same routine.
All of our actors were local people and, as Ken said, local dancing schools were always ready to help with dancers, whose parents were in the main ADOS members. We also had a junior ADOS Group.
Members competed openly at the Aylesbury Festival in singing, dancing and drama with great success.
We had an age range from 6-7 years old to 90 and all who wished to join were given a chance.
We had an Old Tyme group which visited all sorts of places to take entertainment to the elderly and the lonely throughout the year, normally twice monthly.
We were always well reported in the local press.
What busy people we were. We all had jobs and families and all that goes with keeping a home but ADOS worked like clockwork.
We were a big team of dedicated people. Many, sadly, no longer with us but there are so many of those talented people still around.
They were all stars in their own right. To name one person, I would have to name so many.
For my part, I say thank you ADOS, all who took part in those great shows, and especially to Ken Evans for stimulating the memory of so many years, a lifetime for so many, of great entertainment.