COUNCIL leaders have defended themselves after residents asked what they had done to resist government demands over housing numbers.
Planners and councillors were grilled on their actions at last night’s meeting to discuss the council’s proposal to build hundreds of homes on ‘reserve sites’ around Wycombe.
Resident Linda Derrick demanded to know if WDC had fought recent changes in planning policy which means 300 additional houses a year need to be found, on top of previous target of 400.
WDC leader Richard Scott insisted they had done everything they could to resist the edicts from Westminster, after a shift in national policy over the last year.
He said: “This is a very complex issue, and the coalition Government has forced this on every council across the country.
“Myself and leaders of other councils went to see the minister, we spent over an hour with him but the answer was ‘go away and get on with it’ – there was no movement.
“Wycombe MP Steve Baker has raised this in Parliament at an adjournment debate, and the same answer came out there, albeit slightly more politely.
"The answer was the government has decided the country needs those housing numbers and they have to go away and look at it.
"We are taking this very seriously but I think the only real way forward is to create planning briefs (for the reserve sites) and get on with it.”
Cllr Scott also insisted that Labour's shadow cabinet are drawing up plans to push through similar plans should they be elected at next year's general election, and so the policy is unavoidable.
Last night’s meeting outlined the options for retaining planning control of sites such as Gomm Valley, Slate Meadow and Abbey Barn, earmarked for possible development 60 years ago.
Planners argue creating council-led planning briefs would allow for proper consultation and ensure quality development.
And they warned if WDC cannot show it is meeting it is five-year housing target, then developers will swoop in on these areas anyway with little council power to stop them or steer the projects.
However, this has not stopped residents uniting in opposition to the plans, with residents’ groups fighting off the change at Slate Meadow and Gomm Valley.