Fears that neighbourhood plans may not be recognised by Aylesbury Vale District Council have been dismissed by chiefs .
A briefing note issued by the council said the as a result of a recent court ruling they ‘cannot reject housing applications just because there is a conflict with housing supply policies in a recently made or draft neighbourhood plan’.
Neighbourhood plans have been created by volunteers in five areas of the Vale – Winslow, Great Horwood, Marsh Gibbon, Wing and Haddenham. There are currently 17 other plans in progress.
Together with consultants, community groups set out a plan for acceptable development and amenities in their area, which according to the government, should then be referred to by council planning officials.
The worrying statement was made in a briefing with relation to an application by Gladman Homes to build houses in an area of Winslow protected by the plan.
Winslow town councillor Roy Van De Poll estimates that getting the Winslow neighbourhood plan through cost in excess of £20,000 as well as 4,000 hours of volunteer time.
He said: “What they are saying is the complete reverse of what the government supports, which is that if people make a neighbourhood plan and do the job properly it will be supported.”
He added: “They are putting this application through knowing full well it is an identical application to one they put through two years ago. That application was referred to the court of appeal and the secretary of state decided that the application should be dismissed because of the neighbourhood plan.
“We are quite frankly horrifed that AVDC has taken this approach.”
Councillor Carole Paternoster, AVDC cabinet member for strategic development and neighbourhood plans, said: “ Unfortunately there seems to be a misunderstanding about what the recent Court of Appeal judgement (Woodcock Holdings -v- Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government) means with regard to the district council’s support for neighbourhood plans and neighbourhood planning.
“The council continues to give its full support to those communities currently working on a neighbourhood plan, or with a ‘made’ neighbourhood plan already in place.
“AVDC is certainly not scrapping or abandoning neighbourhood plans but the Woodcock judgement means that at the moment housing supply policies have less weight than many communities may have assumed.”
She added: “Where there are strong justifiable reasons to refuse planning permission we will continue to do so and will defend those decisions at appeal.”