THE planning inspectorate has slammed Chiltern and South Bucks councils over failures to engage ‘constructively’ with Slough Borough Council (SBC) to include thousands of homes in their local plan.

SBC was seeking assistance to reduce their unmet housing need of up to 10,000 houses due its ‘tightly drawn administrative boundary’ where it was recommended larger family houses are to be built as close to Slough as possible – namely in South Buckinghamshire.

A duty to co-operate with neighbouring councils must be included in local authorities local plans – which outlines new housing development for an area over the coming years – which planning inspectorates said that Chiltern and South Bucks councils have failed to do so.

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The Bucks authorities, now part of Buckinghamshire Council, submitted their local plan in September 2019 where more than 15,000 homes could be built in the next 20 years.

The planning inspectorate said the council’s failure in their duty to co-operate will lead to a ‘strong likelihood’ of their local plan to be withdrawn for not engaging “constructively, actively and on an ongoing basis” with Slough Borough Council.

SBC raised its unmet housing needs as far as 2016 in early preparation of the Chiltern and South Bucks Local Plan where representatives from the Bucks councils and SBC only met three times between October 2017 to June 2019.

Matthew Birkinshaw and David Troy, the planning inspectorates, wrote a letter to Buckinghamshire Council stating: “From dialogue in October 2017 and January 2018, no further meetings were held with SBC for almost 18 months, until after publication of the submission version [of the] Local Plan.

“Despite SBC raising concerns once more, no formal notes of the meeting were taken, and the Plan proceeded to submission in September 2019.

“In our opinion, this does not demonstrate that the Councils have taken reasonable steps to engage actively, constructively and on an ongoing basis in relation to the strategic issue of unmet housing need.

“Based on the evidence provided we, therefore, have very serious concerns that the Councils have not engaged actively, constructively and on an ongoing basis in relation to a strategic matter in the Plan’s preparation.”

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Buckinghamshire Council will get a chance to respond to the inspectorate’s findings before a decision is made, but the major housing plans could be thrown out or go back to the drawing board.

Councillor James Swindlehurst, leader of Slough Borough Council, said: “Since 2016 we have consistently invited South Bucks and Chiltern to co-operate with In finding a mutually acceptable solution to meet both Slough’s and South Bucks housing need on the boarder of our respective boroughs.

“However, like the proverbial ostrich, they have kept their head firmly buried in the sand over this issue – so while this judgement is disappointing for them, its not surprising to us that South Bucks and Chiltern have been found by the planning inspectorate to have failed in their duty to co-operate.

“I personally hope this judgement will cause them to reflect and accept our long standing invitation to co-operate with Slough so we can find a mutually beneficial solution that meets both our housing needs in the best interest of our residents. We will now begin work with their successor council, the new Buckinghamshire authority, to work toward meeting locally identified housing need.”

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Cllr Warren Whyte, Buckinghamshire Council’s planning chief, said: “The council has already been facing the prospect of building in some green belt areas to ensure we meet the housing needs of Buckinghamshire residents.

“To suggest that the plan should also have accommodated up to an additional 10,000 houses for Slough is ridiculous.

“I hope when we present our arguments to the inspectors that they are persuaded to change their minds.”