Wycombe District Council has been urged not to “bury its head in the sand” and be proactive in finding new places to build more homes in a bid to address growing housing needs.

New locations for housing developments in the district appear to have been “exhausted” during the Local Plan process, according to Labour’s Cllr Rafiq Raja, as he insisted the district council needs to find a solution to the ongoing housing crisis.

In a question to council leader Katrina Wood, the Bowerdean councillor asked if a review of the district’s Green Belt land is now needed to try and free up some land for new homes.  

He said: “Does the leader agree that we cannot bury our heads in the sand and need to be proactive in looking for solutions to the housing problem and in this respect is it not the time for the policy surrounding the Green Belt to be reviewed so that a tiny percentage of the Green Belt may be freed for housing?

“I understand that as little as one per cent of the Green Belt may be sufficient to meet our future housing needs.”

In response, Cllr Wood reassured Cllr Raja that a “significant amount of work” went into preparing the new Local Plan – including assessing the Green Belt within the district, as well as looking for sites in the Chiltern Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

She said: “Government policy still attaches a high level of importance to protecting the Green Belt. National policy requires that to change Green Belt boundaries we have to demonstrate that there are exceptional circumstances.

“This can only be done through the production or review of a Local Plan and needs to be done on a site-by-site basis rather than a generalised approach as suggested by the question.

“The council has gone through this process to identify the sites that are proposed to be taken out of the Green Belt. It is also worth pointing out that the new Local Plan is having to deliver a lot more housing than we have had to in previous plans.”

The comments come as Wycombe Labour blasted the district council’s Local Plan as “unachievable” and a “rambling document that refuses to take the future of the community seriously”.

Last week, the Bucks Free Press reported that Khalil Ahmed, chair of Wycombe Labour, urged the council to think about the effect thousands of new homes would have on infrastructure.

In response to the criticism, a statement from WDC said: “In assessing potential sites for housing, wherever possible we have been in contact with landowners, developers and housebuilders to understand when sites will likely come forward for development as well as making assumptions when this has not been possible.

“The plan needs to provide for a higher level of housing than we have in the past to help meet our increased needs for housing and we have made realistic assumptions about when we think that housing will be delivered.”