What ‘very special circumstances’? asks Bucks Council officer

In the last of our series on comments by Buckinghamshire Council officers, we look at the Policy comments – effectively the claimed “very special circumstances” (VSC) that would justify overriding the Green Belt status.

First, the officer questions why there is no mention of the benefits of developing “non-virgin Green Belt land” or any other community benefits, which would have been expected to be part of a VSC argument.

The officer also criticises the application’s so-called “sequential test”:

In terms of the sequential test they mention the damaged nature of land as a criteria – this is not part of [Green Belt] purpose – it is not about quality of an area or piece of land.  Virgin Green Belt sites are screened out because they would be similar to the application site, however, despite there having been some historic landfill on the site, I am not sure that this description applies to the application site aerial photography does not show it to look much different to neighbouring grassed fields. (…)
 On this basis [their] sifting would be different so you might want to ask them to redo the assessment ruling in all GB land and then availability etc..”

The application also misses some primary school maths: the documents state that they assessed 91 sites, but only 68 + 20 = 88 are listed in paragraph 5.24 of the Sequential Assessment Report.

Unsurprisingly, “the assessment table appears to lack detail in explaining why some sites [are] ruled out and is incorrect in many cases”.

The officer then lists several factual errors with land ruled out, which should actually have been considered. This includes several pieces of land claimed to be in the AONB but they are not (Wilton Park, Stoke Poges, West Taplow, Thorney Business Park). In some cases, these are actually close to a motorway, so arguably more accessible than Marlow’s Green Belt.

Needless to say, Guernsey-based Dido Property Limited are attempting to fudge the site selection process to end up with land that they own – not where a film studio project would be the most beneficial for the industry. Thankfully their mistakes and false assumptions make it so obvious to officers and every one of us.