Did we do enough to use the Local Plan to ask for Stone Meadows to be protected from future development?
In November 2016, 7 months after this group was formed to raise awareness that CDC had targeted Upper Stone Meadow as having potential for downgrade and development of housing or offices the results of the Local Plan were released and it was confirmed that no areas in Chalfont St Giles were being considered to downgrade for development.
After the Local Plan deadline closed on March 14th it was announced that approx 5,000 response forms were received by Chiltern District Council from the combined South Bucks and Chiltern area. Combined population of these two Districts is approx 160,000. This means that throughout both counties the average response was 1 in 40 or 2.5 %.
BUT of the 5,000 response forms from both districts, 1,500 came from Chalfont St Giles which only has a population of 6,000. This represents 1 in 4 residents or 25% of the population responding and making their feelings about Stone Meadows known. We do not believe you could have done any more considering the short notice we had to respond.
We are now connected as a village through the google group (click HERE and type ADD ME to join for updates) we have a website with 12,000 views (www.savestgiles.com) a Facebook page that has reached 22,000 ( HERE Save St.Giles) and we are on Twitter (HERE @SaveGiles).
Can we do more to Protect Stone Meadows?
We have launched a national petition to protect both Upper and Lower Stone Meadows and have joined forces with 38 Degrees who work to bring about real change in the UK by taking action on the issues that we all care about. 38 degrees is one of the biggest campaigning communities with over 2.5 million members.
Both Upper and Lower Stone Meadow were purchased by Chiltern District Council and if they allowed Upper Stone Meadow to be considered for downgrading and development, there is nothing to say they will not allow Lower Stone Meadow to be targeted in the future.
We urge you to sign the petition immediately and then forward to friends and family and email to your whole address book. We have had letters of support from as far away Australia, Canada, France and Spain and there is no reason why this campaign to petition for the Meadows to be protected forever shouldn’t be far reaching.
John Bishop Comedian is familiar with the valley and the Meadows and pledged his support in a Tweet to 3.5 million follows.
We also want to build our data base and be able to get urgent updates to you so please email us with the words ADD ME and ask others to do the same. CLICK HERE
We heard from a local action group that many communities banded together to protest against HS2 yet mysteriously there was very little protest from Chalfont St Giles. We are not sure why this is but it is possible that as a community we fell into the trap of believing the HS2 roadshow when it rolled into town and persuaded everyone that HS2 would bypass the village at a depth of 100m and that no one would ever know it was there.
A few years later, for those of you who are unaware, the reality is that the tunnel was diverted without notifying the village and now runs directly under the centre of the village at a depth of only 19m (the minimum depth anywhere in the country). The double bored tunnel will run meters from the Grade 1 listed Church, too close to the sensitive chalk stream bed of the Misbourne, under the library, shops and houses. No one was informed of this change, it happened overnight and is an example of how important it is to be vigilant as a village group.
Next time anything like this happens we want to make sure your voice is heard with volume and clarity.
To read how HS2 will impact Chalfont St Giles CLICK HERE
To Empower and Strengthen the Community and Protect our Village.
By connecting the village via social media and email groups we believe we can make sure we are never caught 'off guard' in relation to HS2 Or The Meadows or to anything else that threatens our historic village.
We do not believe there would have been more than 100 responses to the Local Plan if we had not made the village aware of the threat to Upper Stone Meadow. We can hopefully communicate more efficiently with each other in the future.
Modern society is often criticised for being selfish and materialistic and lacking any sense of community. We believe that there is a very healthy sense of community alive and well in our village and that this has been demonstrated by you in response to the threat to the meadows recently.
Local politics have had to move to another level in recent years and we have all seen how the unfair and at times underhand the behaviour of HS2 Ltd has been, ignoring the wishes of communities across the country who were not robust enough in pushing back against them.
HS2 often repeated the word NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) to describe honest, innocent, hard working people who had saved all of their life to invest in their properties. These, often elderly people, were swept aside by HS2 Ltd because they simply could not afford to pay fair compensation. The value of houses of innocent people throughout the country were slashed and inheritance and funds for nursing care or retirement was cruelly swept away over night.
HS2 Ltd specialised in withholding information, not returning calls, proposing changes without informing people, not publishing changes or meetings and pushing through proposals before anyone had a chance to complain.
Chalfont St Giles needs a voice to match these modern bully tactics which are already emerging in the District Councils handling of Upper Stone Meadow. The local plan was too confusing for people to understand,Maps had no markings so even locals couldn't understand them, development areas were coloured green like fields, it wasn't well advertised, by the time St Giles Parish met with the village there was only 2 weeks remaining until the deadline closed, CDC proposed their own land without declaring an interest, the Parish Council presented the plan without being aware themselves that the land was owned by CDC, Bucks CC will benefit financially of development goes ahead etc etc.
We are not prepared for our village to be taken for granted and by connecting with each other we can remain vigilant against any threat to our community but at the same time try to look for ways in which we can strengthen and improve our village.
Are you aware that weeks before we set up Save St. Giles the Local Residents Society disbanded?
The group worked tirelessly for many years connecting the community with their quarterly booklet ‘Focus’ but with the popularity of the Village Newsletter weekly via email the quarterly publication of the Focus booklet was unable to keep up to date with current affairs.
Save St.Giles can access thousands of social media followers and connect directly to our local Google group within seconds to inform them of issues relevant to the village.
If you haven’t already signed up to the Google group please email HEREwith the words ADD ME.
What will Save St. Giles do differently?
We will remain an independent voice with no formal connection to the Parish or District Council. Chalfont St Giles no longer has a Residents Association so we feel a responsibility to help the village when help is needed. We will not be restricted by local politics, red tape or the day to day running of a village. Instead we would like you to consider us to be on call to step in and help inform and protect our unique and historic village when confronted with the bigger issues.
We will ask the Parish Council to inform us of any notices that they send to the local news letter and we will decide whether it is of such importance to bother you. This would have helped us identify the threat to Upper Stone Meadow perhaps a month earlier. Now that we have set up a line of communication via our Google Group ( please CLICK HERE to email and register for updates if you haven’t already done so) we can filter most announcements but alert you when something important is happening.
What’s your relationship with The Parish Council?
Save St. Giles has absolute respect for our Parish Council. Their members give their time for free, organising, arranging and executing meetings and sub meetings. They make sense of District Council and National politics, oversee the upkeep of public spaces, try to make the best of the most restrictive budget for the good of the village and keep on top of planning issues and formal paperwork. They respond to hundreds of emails and letters and in general do what they consider best for the village and its residents.
We would like to think that Save St. Giles can work with the Parish Council and perhaps help them to reach out to the whole village on important issues such as HS2 and protecting Stone Meadows.
We are happy to work with the Parish Council but will always remain an independent voice and will speak out against any organisation if we think it is in the best interest of the community.
Why was The Local Plan so confusing?
As a group we were very critical of the Local Plan and our own letter of protest to CDC (HERE) reflected that. We questioned how a badly publicised, confusing questionnaire that was asking what communities want for the future whilst at the same time targeted an area of greenbelt and Outstanding Natural Beauty for possible development hoped to achieve.
The village had no option but to spend their time defending Upper Stone Meadow when they should have been free to offer any area in the village for possible development.
With 5,000 responses to the Local Plan coming from approximately 160,000 (estimated 1,000 from St Giles) that means only 1 in 40 residents of BCC and CDC were aware of the plan or found it clear enough to understand and respond. The District Council hailed the project as a success but we believe they should be disappointed with a costly questionnaire that only 1 in 40 residents understand. The results of the plan will effect the physical appearance and development of our villages and green spaces for decades to come and should engage the whole of our communities.
Consider how these first three questions in the Local Plan ever passed the research stage and how they could possibly be aimed at regular people who work hard for and care for their communities ...
Question 1: Do you have any comments on the definition of housing and functional economic market areas being used, on the draft Buckinghamshire HEDNA or on the needs assessment work planned during the next stages of the Joint Local Plan process?
Question 2: Do you have any comments on the draft HELAA, particularly in relation to whether included sites are likely to be deliverable by 2036 and whether additional sites should be added?
Question 3: Are there existing uses/sites not currently identified in the HELAA and within the built-up areas that may be surplus to requirements or where the existing use could be consolidated or re-provided elsewhere such as open spaces, sports and leisure uses?
After reading the first three questions remember how long the relevant documents were. The Local Plan document was 61 pages long, the HELAA document referred to above was 117 pages long, the 'Sustainability appraisal of the Chiltern and South Bucks local Plan: Regulation 18 inc issues and options (reasonable alternatives) document: Lepus (January 2016)' was 175 pages long, there were links within links and reports within reports totalling thousands of pages.
This was a poorly executed plan, a waste of precious funds which had clearly not undergone any market research process before being thrust upon 160,000 residents at short notice. It almost deliberately sought to alienate 97.5% of the people who actually live in these Districts.
We do not believe that on any level this exercise was able to fairly assess the opinions and views of real people in real communities and we do not believe it can, in any way, be considered a success.