Beaconsfield's half-built relief road to overcome traffic congestion in and out of the Old Town could end up being “a road to nowhere,” warned the developer currently locked in a dispute with council planners over the number of affordable homes in the redevelopment plan for neighbouring Wilton Park.

The 100 acre parkland site next door to the cricket club at the entrance to the Old Town was previously owned by the Ministry of Defence.

It was the MoD’s School of Languages. The students lived in the tower block dubbed the Wilton Hilton.

Frustration over the year-long delay to make progress with the application to create 350+ new homes with all the amenities for a new community reached boiling point for Inland Homes chief executive Stephen Wicks on Monday.

Speaking exclusively on the record to the Bucks Free Press ahead of Wednesday’s public meeting organised by the Beaconsfield Society to update local residents on the scale of the local threat to the green belt, the developer blamed the intransigence of South Bucks District Council for the stalemate at Wilton Park.

He threatened to scupper the relief road by refusing to provide the final section for the revised route.

Minerva Way is the minor road owned by his company that leads into Wilton Park.

As things stand, it will link the new relief road with the A355 Park Lane to Amersham Road, this being one end of the revised route which will circumnavigate Wilton Park via the new access road into Wilton Park leading off the Pyebush Roundabout on the approach route into the Old Town from the M40.

The developer is prepared to put the planning application for the development on ice for the foreseeable future, he says, unless the planners change their tune on the number of affordable homes and the type of scheme he believes is best suited to the local area where the average house price is over a million.

The 66-year-old boss of one of the UK’s specialist brownfield developers is a Beaconsfield resident.

He is adamant that what’s needed by local families aren’t flats or houses to be let at subsidised rents to housing association tenants but homes to help first time buyers  get onto the property ladder via a shared ownership scheme.

He told the BFP: “The relief road is desperately needed to relieve the traffic congestion in Beaconsfield. To get to the M40 at the moment everything has to go via that mini roundabout at the bottom of Minerva Way.

“It has been talked about for 20 years. A government grant of £10.5m has been found to build the road up to the boundary of Wilton Park.

“Two years ago Inland put in the first section off the Pyebush roundabout into Wilton Park.

“Currently Bucks Highways are making progress with the rest of the road.

“Unfortunately they are making the incorrect assumption that we will complete the missing Minerva Way piece.

“There is a perception that we are some kind of benevolent institution. We are not a charity.

“Our section of the road would cost about £2m, plus we would have to demolish existing houses we own worth £20m and all this without a viable planning permission. There is no commercial reason for us to do so.

“We are considering withdrawing our planning application. We would simply manage the estate for the foreseeable future.”

The developer added: “Although our financial viability assessment for Wilton Park indicated zero affordable housing, to try and break the deadlock we have offered 32 shared ownership homes. 

“This has been rejected by Mark Jaggard, the new head of planning for South Bucks and Chiltern District Councils.

“What is very strange is that South Bucks District Council has advised that the relief road is not a particular priority for them.”

As well as making the decision to tell the public what’s been going on –in fact not been going on – behind the scenes towards gaining planning consent to build the homes and infrastructure for a whole new community on the edge of Beaconsfield Old Town, Inland Homes’ chief executive Stephen Wicks also fired off a message this week to the organisers of Wednesdays’ meeting.

It was intended for those who continue to oppose the proposal to build 350+ new homes on the MoD site despite the development plan being approved in principle after a lengthy consultation process.

Mr Wicks message to protesters was this: “Sirs, just a comment from me about your campaign. There is a finite supply of brownfield sites available and we have a crisis of monumental proportions in the UK.

“Instead of saying ‘not in my backyard’ and whipping up hysteria about homes and jobs, if you have constructive ideas, bring them forward.

“Judging by the amount you have raised for your ‘fighting fund’ it appears your members are willing to sign petitions but not put their hands in their pockets.

“You all no doubt live in a nice home. Why not allow others to live and work in this particular place?”

Trade-offs commonly negotiated between planning authorities and developers when new estates of more than a handful of homes are on the drawing board generally start with the issue of what’s known as a Section 106 agreement itemising the legal conditions for building consent.

On large developments such as Wilton Park or Centre Square in Wycombe where Inland Homes is undertaking the regeneration of a three and a half acre site on the west side of the town centre, the planning obligation amounts to a substantial contribution towards improving the infrastructure  and/or the amenities of the local area for the benefit of everyone who lives there or passes through.

The Wycombe site includes an assurance from the developer that there is no trace of contamination from the earlier removal of the gas works which previously were a blot on the landscape.

A new link road and other improvements to the Lily’s Walk area are also part of the planning obligations for this scheme. Consequently all 239 flats in the new apartment blocks will be for sale on the open market. There will be no affordable homes on the development.

In the case of Wilton Park, as long as most people can remember, the chief bugbear for motorists approaching the Old Town from the A355 has been the congestion where it finishes up in the T-junction at the London End of the main route through the Old Town. At peak times the tailbacks clog up the broad street lined with Georgian buildings converted into smart shops and offices.

When Inland Homes acquired the 100 acre MoD site at the London End of the road for a housing estate, it immediately became a condition of planning that a new access road into Wilton Park would be built from the Pyebush Roundabout on the M40 side of town to avoid construction traffic causing further mayhem by approaching the site from the minor road called Minerva Way off the mini roundabout immediately before the A355 T-junction.

Stephen Wicks says if the relief road isn’t built, the junction at London End could also be used as a haul road by HS2 lorries “which doesn’t bear thinking about.”

Since it was completed two years ago the new access road from the M40 side of town has become a shortcut for tenants renting former married quarters at Wilton Park and also for local residents with children at the nursery. The pre-school was originally a facility for service families but continued to be open to locals after the MoD sold the site.

It was always the intention of Bucks County Council to use the Pyebush access into Wilton Park as one end of the future Beaconsfield Relief Road to cut the corner and avoid the traffic hold-ups at the London End junction.

The other access to the cross-country relief road at London End will necessitate Inland providing Minerva Way as a link up point with the A355. And this is where the future of the whole scheme – both the new road and the new housing estate – now hangs in the balance.

The present impasse between council and developer, says Stephen Wicks,  is over the planners’ insistence on a far higher number of affordable homes at Wilton Park than the 32 Inland Homes is prepared to provide.

Moreover, the council want the mix of social housing to be homes to let to housing association tenants at subsidised rents as well as some for shared ownership. The housebuilder believes the needs of local families in the HP9 postcode where the average price paid for a house is over a million would be best served by a shared ownership scheme.

 What it boils down to is the extent to which Inland’s financial contribution to providing part of the route for the relief road is offset by a reduction in the number of “affordable homes” the council is set on providing at Wilton Park. 

From the developer’s point of view, the debit side isn’t limited to the cost of building new roads. If the village is built, there will be other benefits for the wider community included in the terms of planning consent. These include a village hall, corner shop, sports facilities and the present pre-school, all open to the wider community.

The financial return for building homes to let to housing association tenants is about half that of new houses sold on the open market, says Stephen Wicks. “We’re not a benevolent institution, we’re not a charity,” he reminded the doubters this week.

A request was made by the BFP for a response to the criticism from South Bucks District Council by the chief executive of Inland Homes.

Although a reply was promised, unfortunately it hadn’t arrived by the editorial deadline for the Property section.

Last year Amersham-based Inland Homes was in the London Stock Market’s list of the “Top 1000 companies to Inspire Britain.” Xavier Rolet, chief executive of the Stock Exchange group, described the distinction as the “annual celebration of some of the fastest growing and most dynamic small and medium sized enterprises in the UK.”