CONCERN is growing in neighbourhoods across the district ahead of a crunch council meeting over the possibility of building hundreds of houses on rural ‘reserve sites’.
A public forum next Thursday is the first of two that will outline the "implications" for large swathes of green land, including Gomm Valley, Slate Meadow and Abbey Barn.
Early plans were revealed in February for Wycombe District Council’s Local Plan to meet building demand over the next 15-plus years, including the possibility of releasing several ‘reserve sites’ for development.
Residents reacted angrily to the plans, with thousands signing petitions to save open spaces at Slate Meadow near Bourne End and Gomm Valley to the east of High Wycombe.
Though the exact content of the briefings is not yet known, WDC says changes in planning decisions nationally has led to a "change of approach" which will have "local implications".
Gomm Valley resident Ian Morton is spearheading a campaign to protect the area from developers, claiming the council want to push through housing on the important ecological site.
He said: "Feelings are running very high in this area because of the underhand way in which Wycombe District Council is pushing through with its agenda to hand over huge parts of Gomm Valley to developers.
"Residents are not going to stand by and see the destruction of an area that should be protected."
Mr Morton has so far gathered around 200 signatures from residents living alongside the lush area of fields and woodland alongside Wycombe District Councillor Cllr Paula Lee.
While Gomm Valley is not in the green belt, The pair say WDC’s own ecology survey in 2009 identified the valley as having "significant biodiversity resources with a number of Habitats of Principal Importance."
The potential for hundreds of new homes on a green belt site at Abbey Barn near Flackwell Heath has also raised fresh fears over road capacity.
Residents’ unsuccessful appeal against the nearby Daws Hill development argued that the road linking the two is already overcrowded.
Keny Tyson, formally of a residents' group that went to court to fight the 400-home plan, says an Abbey Barn housing development would add to the traffic woes along Abbey Barn Road and Daws Hill.
He said: "It cannot deal with the current levels of traffic, and we have been saying that for years now and we have said it and meetings and in court.
"Any new plans can only be tolerated if more infrastructure is built in advance. With the Local Plan I consider they are paying only lip service to the infrastructure upgrades and carrying on regardless.
"Roads are dealt with by county and the district council has little influence on what they do. The sooner we have a unitary authority the better, then there will be no hiding place."
A concerted ‘Save Slate Meadow’ campaign received the backing of MP Dominic Grieve, who called the area a "strategic gap between Bourne End and the Wooburns".
And while arguments rage over an outline plan to build a new M40 Junction 3A (see p.5), WDC is hoping to set the record straight at a separate dedicated meeting on August 20.
The council began launched the Local Plan consultation to address growing need for housing and jobs, with between 500 and 700 new homes every 12 months needed to keep up with demand.
But 72 per cent of residents interviewed during the consultation said it was more important to protect the countryside and wildlife than build new housing.
Nevertheless, WDC will hold two identical meetings - on August 14 and 28 at Bucks New University - to talk about the specific reserve sites for housing.
Council spokesman Sue Robinson said: "Over the last 6-12 months there has been a change in approach nationally to dealing with housing delivery.
"This has local implications, in particular for the ‘reserve sites’: Abbey Barn North, Abbey Barn South, Gomm Valley & Ashwells, Slate Meadow and Terriers Farm.
"To discuss the best way we can respond to this new approach we are holding two public workshop meetings.
"These workshop meetings will focus specifically on the implications for these sites and will not be dealing with wider Local Plan issues."
To attend one of these meetings, register by contacting Lynn Bartley on 01494 421102 or Simon Barlow on 01494 421158 or by email email@example.com.