Buckinghamshire Local Plan Watch - Autumn 2021
Progress is on the horizon for the new unitary Local Plan for Buckinghamshire (covering the former areas of Aylesbury Vale, Wycombe, Chiltern and South Buckinghamshire), which is now underway and will lead to future strategic opportunities across the new authority area with adoption by 2025. Whereas, the review of Plan: MK by 2022 is doubtful.
So far, only a Brownfield Call for Sites has taken place on the new Buckinghamshire Unitary Plan. However, there will be further opportunities to promote land through additional Call for Sites consultations and an Issues and Options consultation as the Local Plan starts to gain traction in 2022.
It will be important to identify through representations some of the key challenges the previous Authority areas faced, including some of the issues raised by the Inspectors through the examination of the recently adopted Vale of Aylesbury Local Plan (VALP) and the withdrawn Chiltern and South Bucks Local Plan. More land, likely at both a strategic scale and through smaller and medium sized development allocations, will need to be identified to meet ongoing current and future needs.
During the VALP examination, the Inspector suggested that further work was needed to be undertaken to ensure the vitality of rural communities can be maintained. This issue is likely to reoccur through a new Local Plan and the Council will need to balance future growth between larger sustainable urban extensions and identifying medium-smaller scale allocations across sustainable towns and villages that could provide more short-term housing delivery. There might be the opportunity to explore strategic medium to long-term opportunities for growth at some of the sustainable settlements and villages across the Authority area.
When looking at Buckinghamshire Council’s relationship with Milton Keynes, the Inspector noted in the VALP examination that it is hard to escape that the spatial strategy in the north of the district would lead to increased lengths of commuting flows to and from Milton Keynes. Therefore, additional allocations near Milton Keynes were required to redress the balance.
Milton Keynes Council
As for Milton Keynes, the Council published an ambitious Growth Strategy last year (2020) which explored potential growth options around the grid system expansion and new transit-orientated communities alongside intensification within the city up to a period to 2050. This included potential growth options beyond the Council’s administrative boundaries in Buckinghamshire (formerly Aylesbury Vale), West Northamptonshire (formerly South Northants) and Central Bedfordshire.
Milton Keynes Council is required to review the adopted Local Plan no later than December 2022 – although the Council state that this requirement will not be met. However, a Call for Sites is anticipated late 2021/early 2022 and there will be opportunities to make representations in respect to their aspirations for growth and housing numbers for Milton Keynes and Buckinghamshire alike.
Both Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Councils are likely to be well protected from a Five-Year Housing Land Supply Challenge given the relatively recent adoptions of both Local Plans. Milton Keynes (110%) and the former areas of Aylesbury Vale (128%) and Wycombe (124%) perform well against the Housing Delivery Test (HDT). The former areas of Chiltern (89%) and South Bucks (64%) perform less well against the HDT.
The market for residential development sites in Buckinghamshire is extremely strong at the current time. Strong house prices remain a feature of the marketing, with the UK House Price Index reporting growth of 11.1% in the 12 months to July 2021.
Buckinghamshire is seen as an attractive place to live, with excellent transport connections to London, Birmingham and Oxford, and a strong grammar school system attracting families to the area. Green Belt limits development in the southern part of the county resulting in high price pressure for what sites are available. Much development around Milton Keynes and Aylesbury is on large urban extension schemes controlled by the large housebuilders. This creates an extremely competitive bidding market.
Bidwells is seeing strong demand for sites from both volume house builders and smaller SME developers looking to benefit from relatively strong sales values particularly in the north of the county to deliver housing numbers.