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Forum: 'Residents paying the price for flaws in Localism Act'
A DISAPPOINTED residents group say they are being forced to pay the price for the flaws in the Government’s flagship Localism Act.
The Daws Hill Neighbourhood Forum lost its appeal against the decision of a High Court judge, who ruled last March that Wycombe District Council acted lawfully in designating the area the forum could influence.
The forum says it has no complaint over the £20,000 legal bill it now must pay but the fact residents are bearing the brunt of a Localism Bill which does not do what ministers said it would – give them a voice.
Forum chairman Angus Laidlaw said: “The consequence of losing both the Judicial Review and the subsequent appeal is a hefty legal bill, to be borne by the neighbourhood forum.
“The complaint is not the cost, the forum was aware of it when we took legal action, but the fact that residents have to pay for flawed legislation.
“Having encouraged participation in local development through the formation of a neighbourhood forum, as set out in the Localism Act, the forum now finds that the local planning authority has the discretion to restrict its area, it appears, for whatever reason it chooses.
“In our opinion, this makes a nonsense of the legislation, which is supposed to be there to encourage participation.
“It’s not surprising we feel aggrieved at the outcome of the legal process. We are struggling to see any advantage in participating in local affairs.”
Residents felt aggrieved WDC removed the RAF Daws Hill and Handy Cross sites from the area they applied for, arguing they were the only two development sites left in the area which would affect its residents.
But the council stated the sites were of strategic importance and the legislation gave WDC a broad discretion to decide what locations were suitable for Neighbourhood Planning and neighbourhood forums.
The authority has already approved an outline planning application for a new sports centre, hotel, office blocks, food store and a coachway park-and-ride at Handy Cross. Construction work begins on Monday.
Taylor Wimpey's proposals for 362 houses, 79 apartments, nine industrial units, a community centre, Air Training Corps Base and a bus hub have also been given the green light by the council.
The Court of Appeal upheld Justice Supperstone’s original judgement, that the council had acted legally in its decision making, in the first legal test of the Localism Act and Neighbourhood Planning.
Cllr Neil Marshall, WDC’s Cabinet Member for Planning and Sustainability, said of the landmark legal decision: “This has been challenging for everyone concerned.
“At a local level it means we can all move on and work with the Daws Hill Neighbourhood Forum to help our district flourish and deliver the key housing and amenities which we need for the future”.
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