A CAMPAIGNER has urged councillors to block plans for a housing development on former railway land – saying the scheme could “condemn Wycombe to a car-only economy”.
Nigel Phillips believes proposals for 26 new homes in Wooburn Green would scupper any future revival of the Wycombe to Maidenhead rail link – as the planned development site lies around part of the old route.
The Wycombe Society member predicts a huge boost to the local economy if the line was restored.
Last month planning councillors tried to reject the Wycombe Lane scheme, but fears were raised that the reasons given for refusal would not stand up at appeal, which could leave the council facing a large legal bill if the developers challenged the decision (see related links).
The proposal will now go before Wycombe District Council's regulatory and appeals committee on Monday, where the agenda papers warn: "It is the view of your planning and legal advisers that the reason for refusal proposed by planning committee could not be robustly defended at an appeal...."
The agent for the developers Henry Homes Ltd says the plans would allow for a railway to run through the site, but Mr Phillips believes this would be impractical.
And he wrote to councillors this week: "Please don’t throw away this opportunity for future generations... More commuting will be required but the main roads are already at full capacity.
"Wycombe’s economy is in the doldrums, and transport links are the key to inward investment... The economic benefit of creating a non-road connection to the Thames Valley cannot be emphasised enough."
He wants members to defer the decision and ask Bucks County Council to draw up detailed plans for the route – which he says would be necessary for the site to be protected.
Mr Phillips says there has been a policy shift in Whitehall recently, and the Government is “now in favour of this type of investment”.
He added: “Money from the Sustainable Transport fund is made available for light rail schemes, and is pouring into the northern cities, but not here.
“From our contacts with the Minister it’s clear that under localism the initiative has to come from Transport for Bucks [the county council’s transport department], but all they have done for High Wycombe is to install traffic lights.”
He says the council’s own long term plans contain “many warm words about sustainable transport and reducing car dependence”, and this is a prime opportunity.
Richard Wells, a spokesman for Bucks County Council, responded: “The Bourne End to High Wycombe disused rail alignment remains protected for walking and cycling uses.
“In the current planning climate, protecting a wider alignment for other uses, such as ultra light rail or heavy rail, without a realistic probability of delivery within five years, would be an indefensible position.”