Use brownfield land NOT Green Belt for housing in Chesham ROUND 2!

by Phillip Plato

Use brownfield land NOT Green Belt for housing in Chesham ROUND 2!

by Phillip Plato
Phillip Plato
Case Owner
Phillip is a Chartered Planning & Development Surveyor and is Chairman of BNG Chesham Ltd. He has lived in Chesham for over 18 years and is business is based in the town too.
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Phillip Plato
Case Owner
Phillip is a Chartered Planning & Development Surveyor and is Chairman of BNG Chesham Ltd. He has lived in Chesham for over 18 years and is business is based in the town too.
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Latest: June 19, 2020

Formal Complaint made to Council about reversal of ACV Decision

Many people in Chesham will already be aware that last year BNG successfully managed to get the land NE of Chesham “listed” as an Asset Of Community Value (ACV) under S 88 of the Loc…

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Brown Not Green (BNG) is a not for profit private company recently created by concerned citizens of Chesham in response to proposals in the emerging Local Plan for Chiltern & South Bucks District Councils that they feel will adversely affect the wider town and particularly the community NE of Chesham at Lye Green as well as many surrounding villages including Ley Hill, Botley, Whelpley Hill, & Ashley Green. 

BNG represents over 1,800 supporters and  some brief background details of those running this campaign can be found at; https://www.brownnotgreen.com/uploads/4/6/0/7/46079951/bngdirectorsbios.pdf

BNG are now preparing for the final public consultation and Planning Inquiry Examination into the Emerging Local Plan following the Council's decision in May 2019, to pass the emerging Local Plan for independent scrutiny.  

The latest version of this Plan proposes various changes to Green Belt boundaries including;

  • removing all 60ha of land at Lye Green NE of Chesham from Green Belt designation for; 
  • development of 500 new homes,
  • creating a 5,000 sq ft store,
  • building a “community hub” &
  • creating 15 gypsy/traveler pitches. 
  • Additionally, large areas of the fields surrounding the development area at Lye Green will removed from Green Belt protection despite only 43% of the area being regarded as develop-able and the fact that all of the land is potentially to be listed as an “Asset of Community Value”! 
  • Furthermore, numerous villages in the District will also either be removed from Green Belt protection to or allocated so as to permit "infilling development" that will potentially change the character of these communities forever.  

This proposed development will place further strain on the aged drainage infrastructure in Chesham with potential for contamination of the local chalk stream (itself a rare global feature & resource) and it will also threaten the wildlife at that location whilst resulting in the loss of good quality agricultural land too.

BNG assert that these proposed changes to the Local Green Belt boundary represents unsustainable & unjustified development that will result in harm by Chesham sprawling outwards, consuming the hamlet of Lye Green and threatening other village communities nearby too whilst generating traffic congestion and further degrading air quality in the town.  BNG believe the Local Plan is “unsound” and is seeking to present legal & professional evidence to the Inspector to illustrates the flaws in the new Local Plan so it can be rectified.

These proposals are also unnecessary given the emergence of the Chesham Renaissance CIC Masterplan which has grown out of the Chesham Society and which has been drawn up by local people seeking to provide more genuinely affordable homes but in sustainable locations nearer the town center on existing underused land that would not only provide the right types of homes but would regenerate the town, and prevent it sprawling outwards onto Green Belt. THERE IS A CREDITABLE ALTERNATIVE THEREFORE - see the Chesham Society's vision at   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5nTs8OAwHoA 

The Council’s emerging proposals to build on Green Belt land is also contrary to the Government’s recently revised National Planning Policy Framework where Green Boundaries can only be modified in “exceptional circumstances”.  The Courts have ruled that housing needs alone are not “exceptional circumstances”. 

The Chairman of BNG made a lengthy presentation of the issue at a public meeting before a packed Town Hall in October 2017 where he was introduced &  supported by Cheryl Gillan MPwho is also Honorary President of CPRE (Bucks).  (For the full video of his presentation see  Link to Public Meeting video Oct 2017 .  

A more recent and shorter update was reviewed through live interviews conducted by BBC 3 Counties Radio in May 2019 – For the edited highlights from these radio interviews go to - Interviews on BBC 3 Counties Radio May 2019   

BNG are again fundraising to ensure like minded residents have some representation through BNG at the forthcoming Local Plan Inquiry/Examination to expose the flaws in the Council’s Local Plan proposals.  To do this we must present reasoned arguments supported by legal & professional evidence.  

Upon legal advice, BNG have now been recommended to seek independent expert submissions to challenge some of the Council’s scant or flawed evidence to prove that the methods of site selection were flawed and to demonstrate the harmful effects of what the Council are proposing.  As such BNG have retained SLR Consulting, a global multi-disciplinary firm, to provide expert evidence on issues such as; 

    Green Belt / Valued Landscapes

    Traffic generation / Air Quality

    Sustainability

This is technical and expensive work and has added to the expense of BNG making a meaningful representation at the forthcoming Public Inquiry/Examination.

Accordingly, we need your help in protecting our local green spaces.  The FINAL public consultation runs from 7 June 2019 until 19 July with all comments then being passed to an Inspector, who it is hoped will commence a Public Inquiry/Examination from December 2019. We need your help now therefore!





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Update 5

Phillip Plato

June 19, 2020

Formal Complaint made to Council about reversal of ACV Decision

Many people in Chesham will already be aware that last year BNG successfully managed to get the land NE of Chesham “listed” as an Asset Of Community Value (ACV) under S 88 of the Localism Act 2011.  Many people therefore expressed outrage when the land was unfairly withdrawn from this listing by the Council shortly before Christmas in what was a nakedly sef serving decision that certainly was NOT in the community's best interest.  

Although BNG could have sought a judicial challenge to this, it did not have sufficient funds to do so in the limited time available for bringing such challenges.  BNG has instead since submitted a formal complaint to the Council under its “Complaints Policy”.   Despite this complaint being submitted on 24 March, and over 12 weeks have now passed, yet BNG have not received a considered response.  

This is probably grounds for a complaint in itself particularly given three earlier written assurances that a response from the Council could be expected “soon” or in “a few days”!   As such, BNG continue to press this matter and may have to escalate this to the Local Govt Ombudsman. 

The BNG Complaint highlighted the unfair nature of the ACV Review Decision including the extended time frame: most Reviews are conducted within 56 days of the original decision and the first notice BNG had of this was Review was received 133 days after the decision.  

BNG also complained of the limited time (just 7 days) they were given to respond to the Council together with subsequent breaches of confidentiality by the Council regarding BNG’s finances.  However, the most important complaints related to lack of consideration to the case law BNG had recited justifying the land being listed and the incorrect conclusion by the Council that community use of the land was merely “ancillary”, despite BNG evidence that nearly 300 people per day use the land.

BNG’s formal complaint made regarding this maladministration and the unfair review decision is still awaiting a response despite the passage of over 12 weeks since submitting the complaint.

Even though the Local Plan that sought to allocate this land for development appears to be struggling through the Public Examination by independent Inspectors, BNG still want to get the ACV status reinstated on the land NE of Chesham as it is a much loved and well used area by the community.  Indeed, surveys reveal that since the public health crisis, public use of this land for informal recreation has increased by over 60% and now involves over 450 people per day.  Hardly "ancillary" or occasional use!

Please share this update and consider making a further donation to BNG as it seems BNG may now have to escalate this complaint to the Local Govt Ombudsman or beyond, in their efforts to rectify a flawed and nakedly self-serving decision by the former Chiltern District Council who are desperately trying to hang onto their flawed Local Plan to develop Green Belt around Chesham.  

Update 4

Phillip Plato

June 19, 2020

Local Plan failing and Council receiving professional criticism!

Many will be aware that the Local Plan Public Examination has been delayed indefinitely due to the Covid-19 crisis.  What many people will not know is how the Council have responded to recent criticism from the Inspectors nor the level of professional criticism emerging about the Council’s Local Plan and the behaviour of some of its Officers & Councillors.  Some of this is now being recited on YouTube in a professional series called “Have We Got Planning News For You” and on other social media channels.  The background to all this is recited below.

On announcing the delay to the Local Plan Hearings, the Inspectors requested all Participants to the first cancelled hearing session, to submit supplementary written responses to concerns the Inspectors had raised which they felt might indicate whether the rest of the Local Plan Examination should even take place. As BNG had already raised formal concerns about such matters, BNG were invited to participate in this written exercise.  The BNG supplementary evidence is all on the BNG website.  

The Inspectors then announced on 7 May 2020 that they have “serious concerns” about the Local Plan and specifically failures under the Council's legal Duty to Co-Operate with neighbouring Authorities. There then followed an exchanges of letters between a Senior Planning Offer in the Council & the Planning Inspectors as well as an astonishing Press Statement made by a Councillor responsible for Planning in the new Buckinghamshire Council that was inaccurately suggesting the Council are being required by Inspectors to accommodate Sloughs housing needs.

Even the most cursory reading of the Inspectors letter will reveal this is not what the Inspectors have said but whatever the reason for this misinformed Statement, it does not reflect well on the Council.

Neither does the response of one of the Council’s Senior Planning Officers who on 12 May wrote an extraordinary letter back to the Inspectors. This letter has drawn the most astonishing and rare public criticism from various planning professionals too.  

Aside from the tone of these exchanges making headlines in Planning Magazine & in other professional journals, the Council’s responses were also openly criticised on a normally light-hearted weekly internet broadcast now on YouTube that had started during the Covid-19 period called, “Have We Got Planning News For You”.  See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDr6AFQO9VM&feature=youtu.be   - Episode 5 at circa 29 mins in is the relevant section.  This weekly broadcast is hosted by a panel of distinguished barristers & QC’s that now goes out to over 2,000 planning professionals including other lawyers, planners & local authorities, and anyone interested can watch the relevant segment from circa 29mins into that broadcast. This panel of planning experts criticised the Council for being “petulant” and suggested this “was not their finest piece of work”.   

BNG do not rejoice at the content of the Inspectors letter of 7 May nor the Council’s embarrassment or criticism by professionals, given that all this suggests the Local Plan is failing and if it is later rejected or is now required to undergo substantive amendment,  it marks an extraordinary waste of public money combined with a prolonged continued period of uncertainty for the community.  

It is still unclear therefore if the land at Lye Green NE of Chesham is going to remain under threat from removal from Green Belt protection and development (initially) for 500 homes, a 5,000 sq ft convenience store, community facility and 15 gypsy pitches.  As such, BNG feels it must continue in its defensive strategy for the area.

Please continue to donate to BNG legal fundraising efforts to protect this much loved local area of Green Belt.


Update 3

Phillip Plato

Jan. 25, 2020

Plan Examination timetable still awaited but legal challenge being considered

Despite many assurances by the Council that the Local Plan Examination hearings would commence in December last year, and the Council also saying they were "ready" & submitted their draft Local Plan to the Planning Inspectorate for Examination in September, the Local Plan timetable is still awaiting publication as we approach the end of January 2020!

Two Independent Inspectors have been appointed by the Planning Inspector and they have raised numerous questions of the Council who attempted to respond just before Christmas and who continue to submit additional documents as part of the Local Plan evidence base.

In the interim, on 3 Decembers, and with indecent haste, the Council concluded an unexpected "Review" of their earlier Decision to grant Asset of Community Value status to the Green Belt Land NE of Chesham and on 3 December, that status was revoked by the Council in what appears a nakedly self serving decision.

BNG sought legal advice when given just 7 days to respond to the unexpected Review and submitted extensive new evidence to the Council which appears to have been ignored as none of it was mentioned in the Review Decision published barely 48 hours after BNG submitted its responses to the Council. 

Accordingly, BNG have recently sought legal advice on this as they have no automatic right of appeal but their barristers opinion is that there may be several grounds for seeking a Judicial Review challenge to the Councils Review Decision.   However, a Judicial Review does not come cheap and will involve both a solicitor & BNG’s retained barrister and tens of thousands of pounds.  It could also take over a year to conclude and first requires “leave” of the Court.  Additionally, there are strict time limits on when a JR challenge can be filed.  The problem for BNG now is whether they can raise enough cash donations (rather than pledges) in time. 

Accordingly, BNG have just extended their fundraising target and is making an additional call for funds to see if they can mount this legal challenge.

Even if it cannot raise enough in the limited time required to file a JR, they will be seeking to retain Landmark Chambers to appear at the long awaited Local Plan Examination Hearings to probe the Council on their flawed Local Plan & to try to have the Plan modified so that the Green Belt is preserved and other alternative schemes that have not been adequately considered are adopted instead.

Please share this information with family & friends and consider donating again to BNG's legal fund.  Thank you. 


Update 2

Phillip Plato

Dec. 5, 2019

Outrage at Council revoking Asset Of Community Value status at Lye Green!

BNG were astonished to learn on 3 December, barely 48 hours after BNG had submitted its response to the Council after being notified by them that the Asset of Community Value status of the land at Lye Green was under “review”, that the Council then revoked the land’s ACV status that they had previously approved on 5 July! 

The Council made no mention in its Review Decision to ANY of the substantive points BNG had hastily made in defense of the land’s designation. They also ignored over 50 statements submitted from members of the public and other evidence that the land is visited by up to 300 people per day describing the community use of the land as merely "occasional"! 

Normally, any review request by a landowner is concluded with 56 days of the original Decision yet Chiltern District Council extended this period to beyond 133 days before even telling BNG that a “review” was even being undertaken.  BNG were then given just 7 days to respond including to present "evidence" of funding that BNG had the ability to buy the land if any Right to Bid arose anytime in the next 5 years. 

This outrageous behavior has all the appearance of the Council sidestepping a compensation claim from the landowner and/or desperately trying to keep Lye Green as a housing development site in the draft Local Plan.  

BNG continue to resist these unsustainable Local Plan proposals that will have serious adverse effects upon the whole town.  Obviously BNG has faced unexpected legal costs on this unexpected ACV issue and the question of whether we may have to seek a Judicial Review of the Council's latest decision remains open at this time pending legal advice.  Whether we go down this route or not,  your donations are desperately needed to help BNG continue fighting to protect the Green Belt at Chesham. Thank you for your continued support.

Update 1

Phillip Plato

June 7, 2019

Round 2 of BNG Fundraising off to a flying start!

Please accept our sincere thanks.  

Your generosity and prompt response has seen our Round 2 Crowdjustice campaign get off to an amazing start.

In less than 24 hours from the portal going "live" we have already raised £1,242 which is 49% of our initial target for Round 2 on CrowdJustice.  

Amazingly this has come from 22 visits to our page ALL OF WHICH made pledges averaging £56 each!

Please can I ask you to share the link to our Crowdjustice portal on any or all of your social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin etc as by spreading the word we will really gain traction.  The link is;  https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/use-brownfield-land-not-green2/

Thank you so much for responding as you have done already.  

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