The diggers may not yet have been rolled in, but with the looming threat of 10,000 new homes edging closer, the message of defiant communities across the district seems to be clear – hands off our towns and villages.

The month-long consultation on the Wycombe District Council draft Local Plan will end next week, with yet more campaign groups appearing to promise they will not back down without a fight.

Last month, councillors revealed a 17-year vision for the future of our district, admitting not everyone would be happy. But it appears the level of opposition may have been underestimated.

The plan has been pulled apart and slammed from a series of newly-formed campaign groups, who have attracted thousands of supporters to fight building plans in their areas. Has the council’s persuasion project failed?

WDC will pour over the results and is likely to learn that the people of High Wycombe, Marlow, Hazlemere, Holmer Green, Bourne End, Princes Risborough and many more are not happy.

In recent weeks, more and more groups have formed in a bid to reject any over-developments in their towns and villages.

There have also been arguments over where these homes are going to go.

Chunks of the green belt are set to be lost, a former nightclub will go and fears continue to grow over school places and the crippling impact big developments could have on our roads.

Rescue Risborough campaigners say the plan is “not good enough”, Don’t Destroy Bourne End claims it’s not “feasible”, while the Marlow Green Belt Action Group’s message was clear – “Hand’s off our town’s green belt”.

The controversial plans include talks of building 5,200 homes in the High Wycombe area, 2,600 in Princes Risborough, 750 in Bourne End and 300 in Marlow, as WDC is forced to build 500 new homes each year.

Despite the apparent lack of support, embattled council bosses say they have been “open and transparent” about the increased housing targets after previously admitting that they had “shared the pain”.

The council, which is being pressurised by the government to boost housing numbers, is stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Cabinet member for planning and sustainability, Cllr David Johncock, said: “We’ve always known producing a local plan would be a challenge – you can’t get round the fact that it’s a difficult balancing act to protect our precious landscape and provide homes we need for our children and grandchildren.”

Full Wycombe District Council statement - Cllr Johncock said:

Bucks Free Press:

I understand why people care about what gets built where in our district and, because I care too. I’ve attended all the local plan drop-in sessions we’ve been holding across the district. At those events, I’ve had the opportunity to discuss local issues with numerous people and provide answers to many of their questions.

We’ve always known that producing a local plan would prove a challenge – you can’t get round the fact that it’s a difficult balancing act to protect our precious landscape on the one hand and provide the homes we need for our children and grandchildren on the other.

We’ve been totally open and transparent about the process we’ve gone through to determine our housing need and we’ve also done a lot of work to reduce the impact that this might have on residents.

This latest consultation has focussed on a range of sites right across the district – and we know that some of these will be unpopular. Given the extent of the green belt (48 per cent of land) and AONB (71 per cent of land) within the district, we simply can’t escape the fact that we have limited options for development and we’re facing some really tough choices.

We need to deliver homes but we need to protect our countryside as much as we reasonably can, so we’ve been meeting with all the Bucks councils to ask them to help us to share our local housing load.

As a result Aylesbury Vale District Council has agreed to help us by taking an extra 5000 of Wycombe district’s houses - that’s a third of our overall need.

We’ve worked to find enough sites so that half of the remaining 10,000 houses will be built on existing brownfield sites and not over green fields with the rest mostly built in and around existing major settlements.

We’ve worked on a county-wide review of the green belt and identified a few parcels of land – less than one per cent of the district’s green belt area -that don’t fully meet green belt purposes.

They could potentially be released from the green belt and used for residential or commercial development.

Local infrastructure is a major concern for people. We know that building more houses means we need to provide improved infrastructure including roads, schools and doctors’ surgeries. The proposed developments will largely fund those improvements.

We have to follow national guidelines to produce a local plan which an independent government planning inspector will scrutinise to the finest detail. All that evidence is available for everyone to see online on our website (

If the plan does not show how we will meet housing need, the inspector could fail it - then it’s open season for speculative developers to fill a planning vacuum.

That could be far worse than the options we are looking at right now. We therefore have to make sure that our submission is robust and evidence based.

We’ve spent years working with local communities and key partners to work out what is best way forward for the whole district and we’ve done what we can to reduce the impact of future development.

To put this into perspective, this will only increase our annual build rate from 400 to about 500 new homes per year which is not as bad as some people might suggest.