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Daws Hill Neighbourhood Forum approved - but a legal storm is brewing
THE district’s first neighbourhood forum was effectively given the green light by a council – but a storm is brewing over the area it covers.
Wycombe District Council’s Cabinet agreed in principle to approve the application for the Daws Hill Neighbourhood Forum, subject to confirmation by the council’s head of planning after seeking legal advice.
But there are rumblings of discontent from the Daws Hill Residents Association, which made the application, over the area the proposed forum would cover.
Under the principally approved neighbourhood area, only a ‘small core’ section including the residential Fair Ridge, Spinney, Fair View and School Close would be included.
But the former RAF Daws Hill, Wycombe Sports Centre and Wycombe Abbey School sites - which all have major developments impending - have been excluded from the area the forum would influence.
The residents association has sought its own legal advice and believes WDC will commit a “legal error” if it pushes forward with the current plan, as it will ‘deprive residents and the forum the opportunity to influence key developments as anticipated by the Localism Act.’
In a statement, the resident association said: “We believe WDC is proposing to make a decision which is at odds with the legislative purpose of the Localism Act 2011 and 2012 amendments.
“Further, the decision would discourage residents from establishing an appropriate neighbourhood forum, again contrary to the legislation.
“Finally, it is considered that WDC’s discretion is limited to questions concerning the constitution of neighbourhood areas, not to define them.”
The association warned it “may result in [legal] action which would be costly for the council and could be avoided.”
Cllr Hugh McCarthy, Cabinet Member for Planning and Sustainability, confirmed the Cabinet had received a letter from the residents association prior to its meeting setting out the issues they wished members to consider before making a decision.
Members of the press and public were asked to leave Tuesday’s meeting so the content of the letter – deemed to contain 'information in respect of which a claim to legal professional privilege could be maintained in legal proceedings’ – could be discussed by members in private.
Cllr McCarthy added: “The letter was considered and detailed account taken of its content at the Cabinet meeting.
"Cabinet subsequently resolved to give the go ahead for the Daws Hill Residents Association and its associated bodies to be formally recognised as the neighbourhood forum in Daws Hill.
“It was also resolved at Cabinet that further legal advice would be taken by the Council and following the receipt of that advice the confirmation of the neighbourhood forum and area would be delegated to the Head of Planning and Sustainability in consultation with the leader and myself.”
He refused to comment any further on the matter at this time.
Neighbourhood forums were born out of the Localism Act, which introduced new planning tools for community groups.
The idea is to give residents – through parish councils or neighbourhood forums – the opportunity to shape their communities, including giving them a voice or the power to say where shops and houses are to be built.