The Winslow Centre
In response to comments about changes at the Winslow Centre, Town and District Councillor Llew Monger responds as follows.
The Winslow Centre is owned by Bucks County Council who have complete control over lettings policy. Neither Winslow Town Council or Aylesbury Vale District Council have any involvement in the running of the Centre and have not been consulted by the County Council or the School. Two years ago a number of rooms were taken over by the Sir Thomas Fremantle School on a two year lease pending the building of an entirely new school. The new build is now more than a year behind schedule and unlikely to be completed before early 2017. The school has obviously increased in numbers as each year’s intake joins and this has led to a need for more space. This could have been provided in temporary classrooms sited in the grounds so as not to interfere with the long term community users but the school is to be given full use of the building. I have been advised by senior officers at BCC that from half-term the school will manage the site between 7.00am and 4.30pm and there will probably be no other users during those hours with daytime adult education classes being relocated to Buckingham. Air Active Gym has already been forced out of the centre after twenty seven years and now, as reported in Mr Hornsey’s post Rozelle School of Dancing, which has been there for more than twenty years, have been told they must leave. Sadly the BCC staff at the Winslow Centre have been placed on a forty day consultation notice and it seems likely that they will be made redundant.
The County Council have failed to communicate with the existing users and made no effort to help them find alternative accommodation. Air Active are moving to the Combined School and Rozelle will probably go to the St Laurence Room or the Public Hall. We have a real shortage of suitable accommodation for such activities in Winslow so the loss of daytime use at the Winslow Centre will certainly cause problems for at least the next eighteen months.
The only light on the horizon is that the Town Council is just starting public engagement in the design or our new community centre and town park at The Paddock. A second open afternoon is being held on Sunday 13th between 2.30pm and 5.00pm and the site can be accessed from behind the Public Hall in Elmfields Gate. There will be a public meeting at the St Laurence Room at 7.30pm on Tuesday 15th when The Council’s consultant architect will present some initial ideas for the community to work on.
You may wish to contact Mr. J Chilver, the Bucks County Councillor for this area
MAJOR CLIMB DOWN BY GLADMAN WILL BENEFIT NOT JUST WINSLOW BUT OTHER COMMUNITIES DEVELOPING OR CONSIDERING A NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN
MAJOR CLIMB DOWN BY GLADMAN WILL BENEFIT NOT JUST WINSLOW BUT OTHER COMMUNITIES DEVELOPING OR CONSIDERING A NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN
On Friday 17th April, Winslow Town Council was informed that Gladman Developments Ltd (GDL) had formally notified the Court of Appeal of their intention to have its appeal against the High Court’s decision in December 2014, which found the Winslow Neighbourhood Plan to be legal, be dismissed with costs. This is particularly surprising as it was only in February that the Rt Hon Lord Justice Sullivan granted GDL leave to appeal.
This about face comes hot on the heels of GDL abandoning earlier in April its challenge to the Secretary of State’s decision to dismiss GDL’s appeal against Aylesbury Vale District Council’s decision to refuse planning permission to build up to 211 homes on the outskirts of Winslow, at Glebe Farm, Verney Road. It is possible that this major change of heart may have been instigated by pressure from other developers for getting them all a bad name and/or that GDL has recognised that positively prepared Neighbourhood Development Plans will withstand legal challenges. Whatever the reason, the residents of Winslow and the Town Council are extremely pleased and relieved at this turn of events. As these decisions see an end to Gladman’s series of legal challenges relating to our community’s Neighbourhood Plan, at least for the time being, this will allow us to proceed, unhindered by legal uncertainties, with progressing the Winslow Neighbourhood Plan to fruition.
As Councillor Llew Monger, who chaired the Winslow Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group observed, “This decision by Gladman Developments Limited has national significance, as the legal standing of Neighbourhood Development Plans, as determined by the courts, is currently set by the judgement of the legality of the Winslow Neighbourhood Plan (WNP) of Mr Justice Lewis in the High Court in December 2014. He dismissed the Judicial Review challenge on all six grounds, making this the legal precedent against which a number of aspects of Neighbourhood Development Plans will be judged. This is hopefully the dawn of more localism and much less legalism in relation to Neighbourhood Planning, which will encourage many other communities to embark on developing a Neighbourhood Plan.”
One should not lose sight of the monetary cost to our Local Planning Authority (Aylesbury Vale District Council) and hence the council tax payers of Aylesbury Vale, in legally defending Winslow’s Neighbourhood Plan at appeals, GDL’s injunction to try to prevent the referendum on the WNP proceeding, which would have prevented Winslow residents from their democratic right to vote and the Judicial Review. Our community owes AVDC a considerable debt of gratitude for their robust support and the excellence of their appointed planning barrister, Hereward Philpot QC.
The Winslow Neighbourhood Plan was the first in Buckinghamshire and the 25th in the country to be completed. Being at the vanguard of this Localism Act 2011 initiative of giving communities the right to decide how they should develop, it was perhaps inevitable that some Plans would be legally challenged and, with GDL’s ‘interests’ around Winslow, with hindsight, the Winslow Neighbourhood Plan was bound to be given a hard time. Fewer than 50 Neighbourhood Plans have been completed to date but there are about 1,400 others at various stages of development. The news from Winslow will undoubtedly give them all additional impetus to reach the finishing line
The importance of this capitulation by Gladman Developments Ltd has been shown by the article below In The Times on Tuesday 21st April and a piece on the early evening edition of BBC’s South Today news programme, also on 21st April.
A recent review of the GDL website noted that their previously aggressive stance, reflected in statements such as Gladman Developments is “A formidable, skilled and highly professional Land Promoter, obsessed with winning consents . . . and that “We obtain residential planning consents on edge of town greenfield sites and use our expertise and financial resources to proactively promote the sites and secure planning permission.” which were on their website, are now noticeable by their absence. Are we seeing a parallel with Ryan Air and a GDL ‘conversion’ to wanting to be liked?
Appeal By Gladman Developments Ltd Against Refusal Of Their Planning Application Ref 13/02174/Aop For 100 Homes East Of Little Horwood Road
On 26th February, the Town Council was advised of the excellent news that the above appeal had been dismissed by both the Planning Inspector – John Felgate and the Secretary of State – The Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP.
Mr Felgate made the following key observations:-
- On balance therefore, I conclude that in NPPF terms the development would not constitute sustainable development.
- The development would be visually harmful to the distinctiveness of the landscape, and to the setting and character of the town itself.
Mr Felgate also fully agreed with previous inspectors who had described the Little Horwood Road as fulfilling the role of a strong defensible boundary, providing a crisp separation between the urban edge of the town and open countryside. A boundary that he made clear should be maintained and protected.
In the letter received, the following were detailed as the Secretary of State’s main reasons for proceeding with the notification of his decision and the decision itself to dismiss the appeal.
- The Secretary of State decided that it would not be appropriate to delay the decision on this case pending the outcome of legal proceedings in relation to that Plan
- He agrees that the sharp transition from town to countryside, particularly on the east of Winslow is a valued feature of the town’s character, and that the proposed development would appear as incongruous, intrusive and on the ‘wrong’ side of the most obvious and logical boundary. As such the Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector that the development would be visually harmful to the distinctiveness of the landscape, and to the setting and character of the town itself
- The Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector that the relationship of the site to the hamlet of Shipton, and the potential consequences in terms of ultimate coalescence with Winslow, reinforces the conclusion that the development now proposed would have an adverse effect on Winslow’s landscape setting and the character and appearance of the area
- He considers that the appeal proposal conflicts with the Winslow Neighbourhood Plan Policy 2 which designates a settlement boundary for the purposes of directing future housing and states that proposals for housing in settlement boundary will only be granted in exceptional circumstances, and conflicts with Neighbourhood Plan Policy 3 which states that proposals for housing development outside the boundary will not be supported unless they require a countryside location and maintain the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside. The Secretary of State considers that these policies are very important policies in the Neighbourhood Plan which seek to shape the development in Winslow and that granting planning permission would undermine the spatial strategy. For the reasons given in this decision letter, the Secretary of State does not consider that the exceptions in Policy 2 and 3 have been shown. He considers that the conflict between the appeal proposal and the Neighbourhood Plan is significant.
- Neighbourhood planning gives communities direct power to develop a shared vision for their neighbourhood and deliver the sustainable development they need. Neighbourhood planning provides a powerful set of tools for local people to ensure that they get the right types of development for their community. Outside the strategic elements of the Local Plan (which is not up to date in Aylesbury Vale District), neighbourhood plans will be able to shape and direct sustainable development. The Secretary of State regards this purpose as more than a statement of aspiration. He considers that neighbourhood plans, once made, are part of the development plan and should be upheld as an effective means to shape and direct development in the neighbourhood planning area in question. It is clear that, where a planning application conflicts with a neighbourhood plan that has been brought into force, planning permission should not normally be granted. In view of the Framework policy on neighbourhood planning, the Secretary of State accords significant planning weight to the conflict with the neighbourhood plan policies which designate a settlement boundary, even though its policies relevant to housing land supply are out of date in terms of Framework paragraph 49. He considers that this adds to the already compelling rationale to dismiss the appeal.
Yet another very clear decision supporting the community’s Neighbourhood Plan and the wishes of Winslow’s residents.
Gladman Developments Ltd’s Judicial Review Of The Winslow Neighbourhood Plan And Subsequent Developments
Late last year, Mr Justice Lewis handed down his judgement on Gladman Developments’ legal challenge to our Neighbourhood Plan and criticisms of certain aspects of the way in which Nigel McGurk examined the Winslow Neighbourhood Plan. On the six grounds of challenge, the judge was unequivocal in dismissing them all.
In his conclusion, Mr Justice Lewis stated
A neighbourhood development plan may include policies relating to the use and development of land for housing in its neighbourhood even in the absence of any development plan document setting out strategic housing policies. The examiner was therefore entitled to conclude that the draft Neighbourhood Plan satisfied the requirement in paragraph 8(2)(e) of Schedule 4B to the 1990 as it was in general conformity with such strategic policies as were contained in the development plan documents. The examiner was also entitled to conclude that the Neighbourhood Plan, which provided for 455 new dwellings in a sustainable way, did make a contribution to the achievement of sustainable development and satisfied the condition in paragraph 8(2)(d) of Schedule 4B to the 1990 Act. The examiner did have regard to national planning policy, including the Framework and the Planning Practice Guidance, and the further guidance referred to in that guidance, and was entitled to conclude that it was appropriate to recommend that the Neighbourhood Plan should be submitted to a referendum. He was entitled to conclude that the strategic environmental assessment report satisfied the requirements of EU law so that the condition in paragraph 8(2)(f) of Schedule 4B to the 1990 Act was satisfied. He gave adequate, intelligible reasons for his recommendations.
In summary, therefore the examiner was entitled to recommend that the draft Neighbourhood Plan should proceed to a referendum. The Council was entitled to make the Neighbourhood Plan in the light of the vote in favour of the Neighbourhood Plan at that referendum. Consequently, the Winslow Neighbourhood Plan is lawful. This claim for judicial review is therefore dismissed.
Earlier in his judgement he commented as follows:-
Winslow Town Council (“the Town Council”) took up the opportunity offered by the Localism Act 2011 and undertook the process of preparing a neighbourhood development plan for their neighbourhood. They established a steering group of members of the council, and co-opted willing and experienced local residents onto the steering group. They undertook extensive consultation in accordance with the relevant regulations. They prepared a variety of documents over a considerable period of time. These included a consultation document, a site assessment report, a state of the town report and strategic environmental assessment scoping report and a strategic environmental assessment report. In the light of that, they prepared a draft Neighbourhood Plan. The commitment shown, and work done, by the residents of Winslow in the preparation of the Neighbourhood Plan are impressive.
Unsurprisingly, Gladman Developments Ltd (GDL) sought permission of Mr Justice Lewis to challenge this judgement and, as previously reported, this was refused.
GDL then addressed a request to the Court of Appeal for permission to challenge the decision of Mr Justice Lewis. The Town Council was recently notified that the Rt Hon Lord Justice Sullivan has granted permission for the appeal to be heard, a Hearing will be arranged but probably not until the autumn, to progress this matter.
The reasons he gave for his decision were as follows:-
The judgement of Lewis J was both impressive and highly persuasive, but even if the Grounds of Appeal, as amplified in the Appellant’s Skeleton Argument do not have any real prospect of success, they are properly arguable and there is a compelling reason for granting permission to appeal: the proper interpretation of both the legislation and the national policy guidance governing the relationship between Neighbourhood Development Plans and local development plan documents raises wider issues that are of considerable public importance.
Hopefully 2015 will see an end to Gladman’s series of legal challenges and allow this community to proceed, unhindered by legal uncertainties, with progressing its Neighbourhood Plan to fruition.
Also on 14th January, the Town Council was notified that Gladman Developments Ltd had submitted an application to the Court of Appeal for permission to appeal Mr Justice Lewis’s decision to, on all grounds, dismiss the Judicial Review, which claimed that the Winslow Neighbourhood Plan was unlawful for six principal reasons and then refused Gladman’s application to him for permission to appeal his decision on 18th December 2014 stating – The interpretation is clear and there is no prospect of an appeal succeeding on facts.
Earlier this month, the Town Council was advised that Gladman had indeed submitted a legal challenge to the Secretary of State’s decision to dismiss their appeal against AVDC’s refusal to grant planning permission for 211 homes on the Glebe Farm, Verney Road, Winslow site and that the Secretary of State’s legal team will be contesting this challenge.
On 14th January, 2015 draft contracts for the purchase of the Paddock were exchanged and signed on behalf of the Council and a cheque was raised in payment to the solicitors, a completion date is now awaited.
This is a very significant step forward for our community as this five and a half acres of land in the middle of the town is where it is planned, as in the Neighbourhood Plan, to site the new Winslow Community Centre and a town park. The Winslow Bowls Club has been located on part of this land for many years on a long-term lease.
The purchase price and improvements needed to make the area suitable for public access are covered by a £200,000 grant from AVDC’s New Homes Bonus fund, applied for by the Town Council.
Subject to a completion date on the purchase, it is planned that work on the site to make it suitable for public access will start later this year.
However, it will be a few years before the planned new Community Centre will be up and running, a project estimated to cost in the region of £3.0 million.