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CPRE Bucks AGM on 5 November 2016, Claydon House

Left to right: Stan Jones, Rt Hon Cheryl Gillan MP, Richard Knox Johnston Left to right: Stan Jones, Rt Hon Cheryl Gillan MP, Richard Knox Johnston Photo credit: © CPRE Bucks

Members and friends joined us for our Annual General Meeting on 5 November 2016, which took place at Claydon House and Estate.

Thank you to everyone who attended and to our speakers, Rt Hon Cheryl Gillan MP, new CPRE Bucks president, and Richard Knox Johnston, Vice President of CPRE Kent. Thank you also to Claydon Estate for hosting us.

Meeting proceedings:

Dr Stan Jones, CPRE Bucks Chairman, welcomed all to the meeting and led the official business of the AGM. Stan highlighted that the branch is growing in capacity with the recruitment of Louise Hartley as the new Branch Manager.

We also have a retained consultant to help us address the growing number of planning issues in the county.For 2017, our focus will be on further building our profile and ramping up our campaigning activity.

Stan welcomed the Rt Hon Cheryl Gillan MP as our new President and thanked our outgoing President, Sir Edmund Verney, for his support over the years.

ADDRESS by Rt Hon Cheryl Gillan MP for Amersham and Chesham
The formal part of the meeting was followed by a special address by our new President who posed the question ‘can we really protect the environment?’

Cheryl highlighted the need to work at both the macro and micro level to maximise environmental protection - from global action such as the Paris Agreement on climate change, which has just come into force, right down to the actions of each individual. People can make a big difference through simple actions such as minimising household pollution and buying local produce to support our farming community.

Cheryl spoke of the pressure of population growth and the increasing demand for houses. We need to protect the Green Belt as much as possible and work to ensure new developments are built to high standards to minimise environmental impact and household bills.

Cheryl urged people to respond to local consultations that come out and to not get despondent.

On HS2, Cheryl expressed concerns that it is violating the Chilterns AONB classification and will lead to permanent damage to the Bucks countryside. There is still a lot that can be done however and we must work together and independently to ensure appropriate mitigation measures are agreed and compensation is provided.

Cheryl concluded that we must never give up trying to protect our environment.

Talk by Richard Knox-Johnston, Vice President of CPRE Kent and Chair of the London Green Belt Council
Richard gave an insightful talk on planning issues from across the region including threats to the Green Belt, Local Plan process and heritage assets.

Starting on a positive note, there have been indications from Government that housing targets will be reviewed. This is essential as the current local housing targets are based on aspiration rather than need, which is resulting in inflated figures and increased risk to the countryside. Targets are made even more unachievable as a result of land banking and hoarding by some companies.

Richard provided an overview of the current situation with Local Plans. Developing a Local Plan is a very lengthy process and it is going to be a challenge for many local authorities (LAs) to have a plan in place by the end of March deadline. The lack of a five-year land supply and the duty to cooperate with other district councils will cause delays, especially in areas with Green Belt.

LAs are expected to take into account the benefits of BMV (best and most versatile) land when making planning decisions and developers have to prove there is no other ‘worse’ land that they could build on. Richard highlighted that it is up to us to bring this up and we should put pressure on LAs to carry out a BMV land survey.

Richard highlighted a number of success stories where developments have been stopped as they are in the setting of a heritage asset. In 2014, plans for four wind turbines on land near Barnwell Manor in Northamptonshire were quashed on heritage grounds. Since this judgement, there have been a number of other cases where heritage sites have stopped developments going ahead (Forge Field Society, Waterside Park close to Leeds Castle).

Impact to air quality is another area of increasing importance when it comes to planning decisions. ClientEarth has recently won its High Court case against the Government over its failure to tackle illegal air pollution in the UK, insisting that action is taken to reduce pollution as soon as possible.

Richard concluded by talking about the London Green Belt Council and its recent report “Safe Under Us?”, which reveals that Government policies appear to be forcing councils to release Green Belt land for development. Threats to the London Green Belt seem to be particularly worrying to the north of London, including within Buckinghamshire. We must fight to protect it. Click here to download the “Safe Under Us?” report.

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