RESIDENTS say they have lost faith in the democratic system after contentious plans to transform the former RAF Daws Hill base into a housing estate were approved by council chiefs.

The proposals for 362 houses, 79 apartments, nine industrial units, a community centre, Air Training Corps Base and a bus hub were given the green light by Wycombe District Council’s Planning Committee.

Councillors discussed in detail their fears about the loss of some 179 high quality trees and the proportion of affordable housing for the site.

Planning officers said the loss of trees would be mitigated by the planting of new ones - despite an expert stating he believed more could be saved.

Officers said the affordable housing levels, while not ideal, were satisfactory and members were informed that concerns raised by the Environment Agency over the sewage system had  been withdrawn.

WDC’s outgoing Head of Planning and Sustainability Jerry Unsworth told members: "This has been very challenging as we have been balancing a lot of issues...

"There’s no doubt about it, the quality is in the development and I can honestly say this will be a development we will be proud of.

"It’s not perfect because we are not dealing with a perfect set of ingredients.

"If we tip the balance towards greater tree retention, we have a viability and delivery issue...there is a reason why it has ended up as it has."

After more than an hour of deliberation, primarily over the loss of trees, the proposal was approved subject to planning obligations.

This was despite calls from the Daws Hill Neighbourhood Forum to throw out the plan due to the lack of infrastructure in place to cope with the new development.

The forum accused the district council of "relying blindly" on Buckinghamshire County Council’s Southern Quadrant Transport Strategy, which it says "is conceptual; absent of data and lacks rigour."

Those claims were rejected by the county's highways officer Del Tester who said the scheme would not have a residual impact before stating "that's not to say congestion doesn't exist”.

DHNF chairman Stewart Armstrong also rubbished the proposed Daws Lea Bus Route, which would see a house demolished to make way for it.

He said: “Shame on you BCC for instigating this scheme and putting the family living in that house under stress, and shame on you WDC for not thoroughly questioning this ludicrous scheme.”

Cllr Alan Turner and Cllr Alan Turner were the only members to question the traffic issues.

Cllr Turner also called the bus route "ludicrous" and asked if members would have the chance to look at it again - but WDC’s Cabinet agreed in September to delegate the decision to BCC.

Following the meeting on Wednesday night, residents said councillors had "missed the point" and "abdicated their democratic responsibility".

The forum’s Ken Tyson said: "For me, one of the 'highlights' of the meeting was when the BCC officer admitted a direct bus link was needed to avoid the congestion on Daws Hill Lane.

"What an own goal, I laughed loudly at that bit. The Daws Lea decision will be taken by BCC without further consideration by WDC and I think that is an abdication of democratic responsibility."

Resident Neil Terry added: "They really missed the point and did not give full consideration to the key issues - the amount of time spent discussing trees! I have lost faith in the system."