The Chilterns Conservation Board is delighted with Buckinghamshire Council’s decision to reject an application for the construction of 50 homes on land to the rear of Glynswood, High Wycombe. The site lies within the designated Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which means it is protected from major development, unless there is an overriding public need for the development that cannot be met elsewhere.
The principle of some development on this site was set through the Wycombe Local Plan, however the plan also placed strict requirements on any development proposal, including that their design must be ‘landscape-led’. The rejected proposal claimed to have taken such an approach by grouping taller buildings in the middle of the site and including trees and some open space, however they did not draw on the principles of the Chilterns Buildings Design Guide. This approach is not sufficient to justify development of this scale in an AONB.
The Chilterns Conservation Board’s planner, Dr Matt Thomson, said:
“Members of Buckinghamshire Council’s Wycombe area planning committee are to be commended for making this decision. The decision demonstrates that development cannot be accommodated on this site without causing unnecessary harm to the character and natural beauty of the Chilterns landscape: the site should never have been identified for development in the Wycombe Local Plan.”
In 2019, the former Wycombe District Council identified the site for development in its local plan against the Chilterns Conservation Board’s advice and, in our view, against national planning policy.
The image above shows a council drawn map of how the proposed site would look
In an attempt to reconcile the site’s prominent position in the AONB, the local plan required that the design of any scheme should be ‘landscape-led’ and placed an indicative limit of 50 on the number of homes that might be provided. This put the council in a difficult position. They had a site in their local plan, potentially contributing 50 homes towards meeting their housing need, but had no certainty that this number of homes could be built at the same time as meeting the environmental requirements of their own policy. The site should not have been allocated in the local plan, as this provides no certainty as to the deliverability of the plan either to the landowner and investors in the development, or to the community.
The Board looks forward to Buckinghamshire Council producing its new single local plan with better protections in place for the nationally important landscape that is the Chilterns AONB, including the removal of this site from the development plan.