Protect Burnham Beeches

Buckinghamshire Council is attempting to re-write the rules protecting Burnham Beeches, stripping away its key protections as a ‘Special Area of Conservation’. These rules are also a crucial barrier that protect Beaconsfield from over-development. The Council has issued a draft planning document which, while seemingly innocent, opens the way for excessive development in the Burnham Beeches and Beaconsfield area. Objections to this underhand initiative must be lodged by Thursday 3rd September - for details see below.

Burnham Beeches: a ‘Special Area of Conservation’

Burnham Beeches has the highest European level of nature conservation sites. This means that there are restrictions on development within a 5.6km buffer zone, which includes Beaconsfield. One of the most important current regulations is the requirement for new housing development to include ‘Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace’ (SANG), or new recreational space, to mitigate the increased visitor pressure on such a crucial conservation area.

This protection will be a key argument against the 1,600 new homes currently proposed to the east of Beaconsfield in the draft local plan. There is simply not the land to create 1,600 homes AND the roughly 30 hectares of new ‘alternative greenspace’ that our proximity to Burnham Beeches would require. The draft plan should fail on this point even if it has not already failed on other issues such as the Council’s ‘duty to co-operate’. And if this draft plan fails, Beaconsfield needs the same protection against any future plan by the Unitary Buckinghamshire Council.

Buckinghamshire Council’s proposals: a charter for development

Buckinghamshire Council issued the ‘Burnham Beeches Supplementary Planning Document’ on 29th July, with a ‘consultation’ to run over the summer holiday season until 3rd August. It is a short document in planning terms, a mere 29 pages. Its proposals seem innocuous, mainly focusing on a requirement for developers to contribute towards environmental awareness and monitoring programmes. But look closely, and you will see what is NOT included:

  • There is no reference whatsoever to ‘Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace’. This crucial line of defence is simply no longer there.
  • There is no reference to the environmental or visitor impact on Burnham Beeches from the 20,000 sq ft of commercial space the Council are proposing for Beaconsfield
  • There is no reference to an Air Quality Management Strategy, that should be a key element of environmental mitigation and which is theoretically already part of the Council’s draft plan.

We could go on, and will, in a detailed response to this proposal. The Beaconsfield Society has decided that this underhand, below-the-radar dilution of environmental protections is so important both for Burnham Beeches and for Beaconsfield that we’ve commissioned consultants. Your valuable donations are once again being spent to defend us from our own elected Council.

Object - now

We asked Buckinghamshire Council to extend the consultation period beyond 3rd September so that residents currently on holiday might have a chance to respond. Their rather patronising refusal included the words:

‘We would not really expect any local resident, town or parish council, or local amenity group concerned about the impact of new residential development in the South Bucks (and a small part of Chiltern) area, to have too much to comment on.’

Do you agree? If not, it’s time to object. Here’s how:

Emails and letters should be headed ‘Burnham Beeches Supplementary Planning Document’. Please use your own words, but we recommend you emphasise what is NOT contained in the document, particularly the 3 bullet points above.

You can either:

Make your thoughts known!

Remember your response must be received by Thursday 3rd September, and that Monday 31st August is a Bank Holiday.

Together we can help to preserve both the Burnham Beeches ‘Special Area of Conservation’ and our own lovely town.

Thank you for your support.

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