Buckingham Town Council backs out of court date with Aylesbury Vale District Council

Mark Cole
Mark Cole

A long-running row between two councils over the building of a new care home has finally come to a conclusion after months of uncertainty.

Last week it was reported that Buckingham Town Council had decided to spend £3,000 of public funds on legal advice as they considered appealing to the High Court over Aylesbury Vale District Council’s planning approval.

Cllr Robin Stuchbury

Cllr Robin Stuchbury

The town council received the assessment on Monday from barrister Mark Westmoreland Smith and promptly decided unanimously not to proceed with a judicial review, the costs of which would have been tens of thousands of pounds had it proved unsuccessful.

Buckingham town councillor Robin Stuchbury said: “It’s disappointing that the district council chose not to respect our neighbourhood plan but we’ve decided to spend the resources on the new plan.”

Planning permission for Grand Junction Care Home, which will have 61 bedrooms and 14 assisted living apartments, was finally approved by the district council on October 26.

At their planning committee meeting on November 8 the town council decided to seek legal advice.

The town council’s objections to Aylesbury Vale’s decision were based on two main considerations:

The first is that their neighbourhood plan, written in 2015, in spirit if not in specific wording, prevents the development of anything other than car parking on the relevant land.

The second is that the Aylesbury Vale district local plan, from 2011, protected the town centre of Buckingham from such a large-scale development.

The barrister concluded that while the town council may have had some grounds to be optimistic regarding the defence of their neighbourhood plan, they were unlikely to be able to fend off the influence of the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in supporting development where local plans are considered out of date, as the 2011 AVDLP would surely be.

The barrister wrote: “The government’s objective is to ensure that development is not held up by out of date policies.

“The government sees this as part of the promotion of a properly plan-led system.

It requires local planning authorities to ensure they keep development plans up to date.”

In reponse to the decision, deputy mayor of Buckingham and chairman of the planning committee Cllr Mark Cole said: “I hope that AVDC (and its successor) will now be on alert, and take note that towns and parishes are prepared to fight to protect their neighbourhood plans, which are the wishes of their residents.

“We have not won, but neither have we lost, as this money has been well-spent in obtaining this advice, of which we can make full use as we start to prepare revisions to our neighbourhood development plan in the coming year.”

As alluded to by Mr Cole, a key factor in the town council’s decision not to proceed was the inevitable re-application of plans by AVDC if they’d lost the judicial review.

Intimating a flaw in the system, Councillor Stuchbury said: “The public purse cannot defend against the private purse.”