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Chiltern and South Bucks councils refuse to accommodate thousands of Slough homes

The planning inspectorate has criticised Chiltern and South Bucks councils after they refused to include thousands of homes for Slough Borough Council (SBC) in their local plan.

When councils put together a local plan, outlining the new housing developments intended for an area over the coming years, they have a ‘duty to cooperate’ with nearby planning authorities.

Chiltern and South Bucks councils, which are now part of Buckinghamshire Council, had been made aware that SBC, due to its ‘tightly drawn administrative boundary’, was seeking assistance with an unmet need of between 5,000 and 10,000 houses.

Even though the councils do not have to agree to this, they must show ‘comprehensive and robust evidence’ of co-operation,

The Planning Inspectorate has criticised the councils for failing to do this, and stated that there is a ‘strong likelihood’ that their submitted local plan will have to be withdrawn.

A letter from inspectors Matthew Birkinshaw and David Troy, written to Buckinghamshire Council, said: “Due to the tightly drawn administrative boundary and extent of the built-up area, the main identified supply of housing in Slough is flatted developments. It is for this reason, and in order to provide larger three and four-bedroom family houses, that the council is seeking to deliver new development beyond the borough boundary.

“The need to provide a significant number of new homes beyond Slough’s administrative boundary is a matter which is therefore not in dispute.

“In our opinion, this does not demonstrate that the councils (Chiltern and South Bucks) have taken reasonable steps to engage actively, constructively and on an ongoing basis in relation to the issue of unmet housing need.”

In response to the letter, Cllr Warren Whyte , Buckinghamshire Council’s cabinet member for planning and enforcement, said: “The council has already been facing the prospect of building in some greenbelt areas to ensure we meet the housing needs of Buckinghamshire residents.

“To suggest that the plan should also have accommodated up to an additional 10,000 houses for Slough is ridiculous.”

Councillor James Swindlehurst, SBC leader, said: “Since 2016 we have consistently invited South Bucks and Chiltern to co-operate in finding a mutually acceptable solution to meet both Slough’s and South Bucks housing need on the border of our respective boroughs.
 
“However, like the proverbial ostrich, they have kept their head firmly buried in the sand over this issue - so while this judgement is disappointing for them, its not surprising to us that South Bucks and Chiltern have been found by the planning inspectorate to have failed in their duty to co-operate.
 
“I personally hope this judgement will cause them to reflect and accept our long standing invitation to co-operate with Slough so we can find a mutually beneficial solution that meets both our housing needs in the best interest of our residents. We will now begin work with their successor council, the new Buckinghamshire authority, to work toward meeting those needs.”

An SBC spokeswoman added: "We are pleased the inspectors examining the Chiltern and South Bucks Local Plan have recognised that Slough has housing needs that cannot be met within its tightly drawn administrative boundary and we note the Inspectors have concluded South Bucks and Chiltern have not engaged constructively with Slough about how these needs should be met.

“It is unfortunate that as a result of this failure to meet the 'duty to cooperate' the inspectors have had to recommend that their entire local plan should be withdrawn so that the need for meeting some of Slough’s unmet need can be properly considered.

“Cooperation is already taking place on a Jointly commissioned Growth Study which is intended to try to resolve this important cross boundary issue and the Council looks forward to having productive discussions with the new Bucks authority.”

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