Following the recent Parish Council Meeting, and the report from the Housing Needs Survey being made available, Ellesborough Parish Council (EPC) would like to update you on some recent developments, and address some concerns. The full report published by the third-party organisation (Community First Oxon) who carried out the survey can be found on the EPC website
In summary, 324 surveys were distributed, with 121 being returned. EPC would like to sincerely thank all those who participated in this survey which indicated a provisional need for 7 rented units, and 13 shared ownership units.
In response to the question ‘Do you support a small development of homes for those in affordable housing need with local connections to the parish of Ellesborough’
- 51.5% of respondents said yes.
- 27.5% of respondents said No.
- 21% said Maybe.
At the recent meeting, a total of 6 parishioners voiced some concerns regarding the Affordable Housing proposal. Councillors listened, and engaged positively with these concerns, and would like to share the update on these matters with the whole parish.
Building in the AONB
A large part of the concern by some parishioners is the act of building new properties in the Chilterns AONB. EPC has given significant thought to this point, as it is an argument that carries some weight. The Chilterns AONB spans some 422, 000 acres (over 600 sq miles). This proposed development would take up less than 1 acre. Moreover, the currently proposed site at Home Close Farm is grazed grassland for horses. It offers little by way of biodiversity and natural capital. With the proposed small development of homes will come an oversite that will include some native tree planting, shrubbery and gardens.
Appropriateness of the site
Some believe the site to be inappropriate for reasons other than its AONB status. EPC believes it is an ideal site due to its proximity to local amenities. It is situated a short walk from bus stops, the park, the village hall, the pub and the church.
Effect on neighbouring properties
Some arguments have been raised with concerns as to how this could impact on neighbouring properties. Given the level of emotion in these arguments EPC have considered them very carefully and taken them into account when considering the proposed site. The EPC recognise that the subject site has some immediate neighbours who, understandably, would prefer that the subject site is not developed. It could, however also be considered that any new development for housing should logically be an extension to the urban ribbon development of the village. The downside to extending the existing urban footprint is that it will always impact some neighbours more than others. The EPC concluded that the proposed site is well screened by a tall hedge. The visible impact from the road will be minimal, both during any construction period and into the future following any form of finished development.
An argument has been made that Hastoe are not the right developer to be delivering this project. EPC has seen evidence in Kimble, at their development there, that Hastoe are capable of delivering this project. They are approved by Bucks Council, and have been found to be in the top 30 sustainable UK housing providers 2021 (www.housingdigital.co.uk/top-30-sustainable-housing-providers-the-results/). It has also been confirmed that there will be no ongoing financial liabilities for EPC in the management of this scheme.
The Need Survey
The validity of the recent Need Survey has been questioned with attention being drawn to the link between Affordable Housing and the Bucks Home Choice register. The recently conducted survey is an indicator of need, without the benefit of means testing, whereas the BHC register is a database of citizens within Bucks who qualify for affordable housing. However, the BHC register does not identify all relevant households with strict local connection criteria. For example; any households that moved outside of the parish due to the lack of suitable housing. It is also the case that not all households register for housing, such as children living at home, or that not all households qualify to join, such as those living in assured shorthold tenancies with adequate space, albeit they may only have a 6 month agreement. When considering the needs survey, Bucks Council expect that Community First Oxon are able to offer background with regards to the methodology used to identify households who meet the strict local connection criteria which form the basis for allocation of this type of exception scheme.
One of the ongoing criticisms being made of the EPC and raised again at the meeting, is that the council have acted deceitfully through the whole process of this Affordable Housing proposal. This is something that EPC wholeheartedly refutes. Since 2017, when the initial Needs Survey was undertaken, there have been public meetings and opportunities for parishioners to engage in this process. A total of 10 sites were identified as potentially suitable for a small development of this kind. Of the ten only one landowner was willing to engage with the developer to facilitate this proposal. EPC had no involvement in the commercial relationship between the developer and the landowner, and have had no contractual involvement with either party. On the 1st February 2021 Hastoe held a consultation for parishioners, which was facilitated by the EPC, to share their views on the proposal. This was followed with a Zoom meeting to share the results of the consultation, and engage in positive, constructive debate with parishioners around the proposed site.
Ellesborough Parish has been fortunate in that we have not been made to generate a Neighbourhood Plan, which is effectively a way of Buckinghamshire Council forcing Parishes to allocate new sites for housing to meet National targets. Kimble are adopting a Neighbourhood Plan now, which has forced them to allocate land for 140 new houses to be developed. It would be naive to consider that Ellesborough will not have future pressure on it to provide new housing, and therefore, the EPC consider it a responsible approach to encourage small scale sustainable development.
EPC has been made aware that Hastoe are currently working on a planning application to submit to Buckinghamshire Council. This application is expected to be for a proposal of 6 x 2 bedroom units. An update will be sent to all parishioners as soon as we find out that this has been submitted. The application will be subject to all normal processes, and as such you will be able to make your views known to Bucks Council at this stage. EPC encourages all residents to do this.