Amersham Society Response to CDC Consultation on Local Plan

Question 1

Taking the Core Strategy Vision as a starting point, do you think this remains valid to 2036 and if not, what changes are needed….

The Core Strategy Vision remains valid but perhaps more could be made of promoting creative solutions to the delivery of the vision within the constraints of ANOB etc.

Question 2

Taking the Objectives in the Core Strategy as a starting point do you consider they remain valid or what issues do you think need to be taken into account?

As well as the provision of ‘affordable housing’ in the limited planning sense of social housing, there is a desperate need in the area for housing that young, first time buyers working in the District can afford and that will remain within the reach of young people in the years to come. This implies the need to encourage the building on a much more ambitious scale of small units (apartments as well as houses), with perhaps co-ownership.

Social cohesion will depend upon the plan encouraging a mix of housing and discouraging gated communities, except for the most vulnerable.

Similarly, small units could enable and encourage older residents to downsize while remaining in the area where they have built their social contacts. Encourage building of sheltered housing and care homes to cater for an ageing population.

At a time when there is a need for a large increase in homes, the District cannot afford to use up the limited available space on allowing large houses when there is already an ample supply of these in the area.

Question 3

What challenges or opportunities do you think the Local Plan will need to address?

Challenges include higher density housing while maintaining and enhancing the character of urban areas through high quality design.

Opportunity to stake a claim for Amersham and the Chilterns as a high-tech employer with super-fast broadband. With increased opportunities for home-working business spaces can be smaller with a focus on designed spaces for worker collaboration both within and between companies. This offers high density business near houses and with easy access to transport.

Opportunity to consider remodelling of Hill Avenue (one of the participants in the Public Forum wrote: I would like to walk up Hill Avenue from the station and be able to say ‘what a lovely place to live’. We suggest a Design Competition to turn Hill Avenue into retail, leisure, homes for urban living, gateway into Metroland.

Opportunity to turn Top Amersham and Old Amersham together into a cultural/sports/leisure hub taking full advantage of the largely untapped tourism potential of the historic Old Town. It was suggested that the original bus garage that is now CSG Motors and is up for sale by Tesco could become a cinema like the Rex in Berkhamsted.

While Old Amersham and Top Amersham are distinctive, it is important that they are integrated and a shuttle bus service between the two parts of town would help to achieve that, and relieve traffic and parking.

Retailing in Old Amersham has developed a monoculture with too many expensive women’s fashion shops. A challenge will be to devise a ‘choice architecture’ which encourages a wider variety of shops to come into the Old Town; for example, antique shops (four have disappeared since 2000) which encourage tourism.

There is also an opportunity to plan cycle paths, using bridleways, between urban areas. This would increase safety, reduce car use, promote healthy life styles and encourage tourism.

Question 4

What spatial strategy options do you think the Council should consider and what option do you think is the right option for Chiltern? Are there any other options that the Council should consider?

Some industrial sites in the middle of Amersham (and Chesham) are impractical for the sort of business that they currently contain. These businesses should be offered sites on the periphery of the towns (possibly using some of the less attractive green belt) where lorries will have easier access etc. The release of these brownfield sites to be used for high density housing.

Support for using exemption and build affordable housing in villages, provided that transport and other infrastructure works for the benefit of all villagers.

Care to be taken that the need for more housing does not lead to inappropriate infill of green spaces on Amersham-on-the-Hill (which defines the character of the town); or excessive development which undermines the historic character of the Old Town.  

If any areas of Green Belt are absolutely required for housing, extreme care should be taken to avoid a detrimental visual effect on the ANOB. While developers will wish residents of new houses to have a nice view, that aim is far outweighed by the imperative that the view for existing residents and visitors is not marred by the sight of new development. Any housing should be exclusively smaller, relatively low cost and affordable housing, whether rented or owner-occupier or a mixture.

We presume that the calculation of houses required in the District will be affected by whether or not HS2 is constructed. If the purpose of HS2 is to make Midlands and North more economically vibrant, it must be assumed that pressure on the South-East will be reduced.

Question 5

Do you have any information or a view on the need for specific types of development or infrastructure in Chiltern to 2036 that the Council should be aware of in preparing its new Local Plan?

High speed broadband, across the District will be essential to employment and prosperity and Chiltern must lead the way. Including outlying areas will allow the villages to take some of the new-build pressure.

The provision of many pedestrian/cycle crossings over and under the A413 would give those without cars in affordable new housing in villages the access they will need to Amersham for shopping, transport links and jobs. It would also allow a youngster in top Amersham who doesn’t have a car, to cycle to work in, say, Little Missenden which cannot be done safely at the moment.

If HS2 goes ahead there may be an opportunity to improve transport links to and from Amersham. Once HS2 is finished and the Willesden Junction bottleneck eliminated, we would like to see more frequent tube and train services to London, reopening of the underground service towards Verney Junction (by extending electrification). Chiltern Railways have plans for a direct line from Marylebone, through High Wycombe to Oxford and there are other plans for a direct line between Oxford and Cambridge. Amersham should have a direct train service to both Oxford and Cambridge without having to change at Aylesbury

Question 6

Do you have any other information or views that you would like the Council to take into account in the preparation of its new Local Plan?

No comment.