Boathouse application – approved!

On 10th November, Buckinghamshire Council approved the planning application (reference 22/05132/FUL) for a boat house in the Greenbelt in the Little Marlow Lakes Country Park, set against the A404. The facility is intended to be used by Great Marlow School and Sir William Borlase School.

The planning officer report explicitly mentions the RUR4 policy in the 2019 Local Plan as a deciding factor, as it allocates the entirety of the area for outdoor recreation and leisure use. Not a smaller area, as the Buckinghamshire Council Cabinet are trying to argue.

Marlow Town Council launches Sustainable Marlow Challenge

The BIG Sustainable Marlow Challenge is a community engagement and communications programme, promoted by Marlow Town Council, encouraging all residents to live greener. One of the headline “eco-missions” is “Helping Nature”.

One way to help nature is of course to not remove it when it is already there. This is what Save Marlow’s Greenbelt has been promoting for more than a year. We are pleased that Marlow Town Council is finally demonstrating support for our cause and look forward to reading their official objection to the Marlow film studio planning application soon.

If you live in Marlow, please write to your town councillors to ensure they live up to their own Challenge.

Cakes, Cookies & Cracker sale

Following the Save Marlow’s Greenbelt online auction, we are holding a Cake, Cookies and Cracker sale on Saturday 26th November 2022. Located in the car park of Emmett’s Farm Shop, Little Marlow, from 9 am to 1 pm.

All donations of homemade cakes and cookies would be very welcome, please. Please come along and see us and help support the fundraising efforts – the more the merrier!

If you can’t make it on the day, contributions can be delivered to the Farm Shop before the event.

Big Little Marlow Dog Walk

Dozens of locals turned out on Saturday 22nd October to join the Big Little Marlow Dog Walk organised by community group Save Marlow’s Greenbelt. Residents from Marlow and Bourne End came out in force, along with pooches of all shapes and sizes.

“It’s fantastic to see so many people taking an interest in the Little Marlow Lakes Country Park and enjoying this local amenity,” said Parish Councillor, Anna Crabtree. “Many of today’s walkers use these paths regularly and were unaware of the size and scale of the proposed developments in the area. The sound stages and multi-storey car parks for a film studio, for example, would destroy the open nature of the countryside here.”

This event comes hot on the heels of the controversial decision taken by Buckinghamshire Council Cabinet recently to limit the size of Little Marlow Lakes Country Park to one-fifth of the size set out in the current Wycombe District Local Plan.

Since the Cabinet made their recommendation, 27 Buckinghamshire Councillors have called for the decision to be reviewed to determine if it was made appropriately. Many believe that the Council Cabinet has been influenced by approaches made by property developers and would like to see greater transparency of the Council’s operating processes.

Save Marlow’s Greenbelt Auction is now live!

Our exciting online fundraising auction is now live and runs until 24th November. We have some great lots available, something for everyone starting from £5.

Please support SMG to raise much-needed funds by bidding for lots and grabbing some great Christmas gifts at the same time:

Big Little Marlow Dog Walk 22nd October

Come along with your furry friends on Saturday 22nd October to show support and find out more about the threat to our Greenbelt in Little Marlow. Make the most of this lovely green open space while you still can, explore the public, permissive and well-worn footpaths, plus discover what you can do to help protect it from inappropriate development.

The walk will start at around 10 am from Pound Lane in Little Marlow, making a loop through the Little Marlow Lakes Country Park area, using the network of footpaths. You can join the walk from the foot of the A404 footbridge at around 10.30 am. The walk should take around 60-90mins, depending on the route people wish to take on the day.

We analysed the representations on the planning portal. Here are the results.

With over 1800 documents on the planning portal and more arriving every day, it is easy to lose track and feel overwhelmed. Save Marlow’s Greenbelt volunteers looked at all the representations to date (14th October 2022) and sorted them for you. We extracted the position (object/support/neutral), the type of respondent (e.g. consultee or community organisation) and the postcode if it was available. In some cases, people self-identified as working in the film industry, or we checked their public professional records.

So what do the data tell us?

Objections > support

First of all, the objections vastly outnumber the support comments.

It is clear that the majority of locals do not want a film studio, whereas people from outside the area are generally in support. We spotted postcodes in Essex, London, Oxford, Bristol and Devon expressing their support. So the local people, who are supposed to be benefiting from the “opportunity that the film studios would offer”, have largely seen through the PR smoke & mirrors. (See e.g. our post on what a film studio really looks like.)

What is also striking is that none of the official consultees supports the scheme (10 object, 5 neutral) and none of the community organisations does either (23 object, 1 neutral).

What does support look like?

It is also interesting to understand how people are voicing their support. That’s mainly through the film studio website template:

Clearly, the only way to garner significant support for this scheme is to not require any effort or thought. Based on some of the postcodes and timestamps on those templated responses, it is likely that campaigners walked door to door to convince people to sign up (e.g. on Kingsmead Road in High Wycombe).

All objections submitted to date are unique and written by people like you, voicing their individual thoughts and concerns.

The industry view

Lastly, in this post, we look at people we have identified as working in the film industry. How do they vote?

Well, it’s reasonably simple. If you know what a film studio is like, you don’t want to live near one.

The portal is still open to objections, so please add yours if you have not already done so.

Hands off Our Country Park (press release)

Bucks Council jettisons Country Park plan. Marlow Residents and Campaigners respond.

Local Residents and campaigners fighting to preserve Marlow’s Greenbelt are challenging Bucks Council over changes to the status of the long-planned Little Marlow Lakes Country Park.

They believe that the switch in the Council’s policy – agreed upon in a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday (October 11) – risks weakening the protection from development that the area enjoyed previously.

The report to the Cabinet asserted that the plan for the Country Park, whose origins go back over fifty years, has no legal status. It acknowledges that the then-existing Wycombe District Council in October 2017 resolved to provide a Country Park under s.7(1) of the Countryside Act 1968 to be known as ‘Little Marlow Lakes Country Park’.

However, Bucks Council now argues that ‘the “designation” is (was) not completed’ because the now-defunct WDC failed to negotiate proper arrangements with other owners of land within the boundary of the proposed park.

The Council says it will take steps to develop a country park but the area considered in their new proposal covers only one-sixth of the 330 hectares originally identified.

Save Marlow’s Greenbelt believes that the reasoning behind the Council’s decision relies on an erroneous or mistaken interpretation of the legal situation.

The Council claims that their proposals have been examined by expert lawyers but the campaigners say that this legal advice has not been disclosed to the Cabinet members who were, therefore, unable to make an informed decision. The SMG group believes that at a minimum the Council should publish the advice and seek a second legal opinion.

Save Marlow’s Greenbelt are also concerned that the Council’s assessment of the Country Park’s legality may have been influenced by Dido Properties Ltd (Guernsey) who have openly challenged the Park’s status. This is the development company aggressively pursuing a plan for large-scale commercial development in what is currently Greenbelt land within the site originally selected for the Country Park.

Curiously, part of the illustration in the Council’s Report is credited to Dido Properties.

Dido Properties are assumed to be exceptionally well-informed about the status of the Country Park. The company has retained as a consultant, town planner Ms Penelope Tollitt, who in a previous existence was Head of Planning and Sustainability at Wycombe District Council. It was on Ms Tollitt’s watch at WDC that the plan for the Country Park – bungled or otherwise – was provided.

Local residents are extremely concerned that the park they have long been promised will now never happen. Martin Braint, from Little Marlow, said “The Council has neglected this area for many years and is now planning to fob us off with the bare minimum they need to comply with planning regulations – it feels like a real slap in the face.”

Sam Kershaw, a Little Marlow Parish Councillor said: “This beautiful area, bordered by the River Thames and The Chilterns AONB has enormous potential as a place for nature and recreation.

It is deeply concerning that the unitary council has decided to renege on the legitimate commitment they inherited from WDC to develop the entire Country Park.

The decision goes against the Council’s strategic priorities and completely disregards the benefits that the Park would provide for the community’s physical and mental health. It will now be more of a Country Garden than a Country Park.”

SMG Chairman Richard Sherwin commented: “The Bucks Council are effectively encouraging inappropriate development in the Greenbelt by giving developers ammunition for their case. We will use all lawful means to prevent this”

Buckinghamshire Council pedals back on Country Park commitment

In the meeting today, Buckinghamshire Council decided to accept the recommendations of the report with regard to the Little Marlow Lakes Country Park (see our earlier post). This is despite the numerous complaints sent to local Councillors (some of whom tried to defer the report) and Cabinet members.

Our community deserves the extent of the Country Park that we were promised in the 2019 Local Plan. A place for nature and recreation and a means of preventing inappropriate development that would destroy the area’s character.

Please continue to write to your councillors, object to developments and support us to continue the fight.