An accusation that Buckinghamshire Council is ignoring the wishes of towns and parishes regarding Section 106 agreements – the financial contributions which developers make to lessen the impact of new housing on a community – was made at Buckingham Town Council’s recent Planning Committee meeting.
The charge came after members were told that the town would not be consulted on what mitigations it wants from the new 420-dwelling estate off Osier Way, adding 1000 more residents to the 1000 or so in the adjacent St. Rumbold’s Fields estate. The Unitary Authority agreed with the developer that it should make payments towards transport, education, open spaces and sports and leisure, but there is nothing towards onsite community facilities, or health provisions for which the Town Council has been pushing. Playgrounds alone do not make a community, especially one separated from the town by the bypass and industrial estate. Councillors are further disappointed that the developer has refused to discuss the Town Council taking on the management of the green spaces and play areas, preferring to pass this to a management company who will charge residents an annual fee.
The Town & Country Planning Act 1990 created s106 agreements ‘between a developer and a local planning authority about measures that the developer must take to reduce their impact on the community.’ They must take into account the resulting increase in population and the effect it will have on schools, GP services, hospitals and other local infrastructure. The education contribution is destined for Maids Moreton and Buckingham Primary Schools, and The Buckingham School – the first two being the furthest possible distance for young children to walk.
“Despite requesting that we would be involved from the start, the Town Council has been presented with the Osier Way S106 agreement as a fait accompli,” says Planning Committee chairman Cllr Mark Cole JP. “When we questioned that, we were informed by a Buckinghamshire Council that ‘it is not usual practice for any consultation to be made, although there were discussions with regard to public open space management and sports & leisure projects, which contributed to discussions with the developers.’
When Buckinghamshire became a unitary authority in March 2020, we supported it because it promised greater consultation in planning matters, but the opposite has happened. We are not alone in this – other towns are voicing similar complaints.
More and more planning decisions are being taken by a committee chairman and an officer, despite our repeated requests to speak at committees, and there appears to be a marked reluctance by the local planning authority, which is focused on meeting housing targets, to insist that developers provide community hubs or contribute towards health facilities.
There will be nowhere for at least 2,000 residents of Osier Way and the adjacent St Rumbold’s Way estate – which are on the south-western edge of the town – to meet under cover, and doctors’ practices and schools are already fully-subscribed.”
“Enough is enough,” adds Cllr Cole. “We are calling on Buckinghamshire Council and its six local ward councillors – five of whom are on the North Bucks Area Planning Committee – to start listening. Buckingham knows what its local needs are, but currently we are being ignored.
The result will be dormitory estates with residents isolated from the town and each other, with not even somewhere to meet and chat over a cup of tea.”