Slough Borough is outgrowing its geography as far as house building is concerned.
It expanded southwards in 1995, to add Colnbrook and Poyle, and it published a 2017 plan to expand northwards into South Bucks.
Where next? Burnham, Dorney, Taplow?
Article in Dorney Parish News: July 2020
During the discussions last year as to whether Dorney should remain in Bucks or move into The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, an email dropped into my Inbox from a long-standing local resident that made me undertake some careful research.
His comment was along the lines of – watch out for Slough Borough, who are attempting to expand into South Bucks!
He was 100% correct. Slough Borough have been running short of land on which to build houses for some years. Slough is a rapidly expanding town, driven mainly through the development of the Slough Trading Estate and the Town Centre.
The much-debated Chiltern and South Bucks Local Plan (2016/2036) has become seriously bogged down during the Inspectors Examination process primarily due to the Slough anticipated housing shortage over the next 20 years and Slough’s desire to expand into South Bucks.
The Slough Borough “adventure” into “acquiring” South Bucks land for expansion started seriously in September 2017 with the publication of the Slough Northern Extension Consultation document:
This Consultation document recognised that even if all the identified spatial options within Slough Borough were implemented, it would not be possible to accommodate all of Slough’s housing and employment needs within the Borough.
As a result, a number of options were proposed which involved meeting this need elsewhere.
One of these, Option J1, involved the northern expansion of Slough into South Bucks in the form of a “garden suburb” [involving Green Belt land]. A broad area of search was identified from Burnham [including Dorney and Taplow, we believe] to Richings Park but no further details were included in the Consultation.
This proposal is not supported by South Bucks. However, where there are overlapping proposals between authorities a Duty to Cooperate requirement kicks in. Not surprisingly, this is proving a vexed process and has come to the fore during the Examination of the Chiltern and South Bucks Local Plan by the Planning Inspectorate. In fact, it is currently blocking the completion of the Examination. The details of the ongoing debate between Bucks Council and the Inspectors may be found here:
As a result of the Duty to Co-operate work and a successful bid to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government Joint Working Fund, the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead, in conjunction with Slough Borough Council and Buckinghamshire Council, commissioned a joint study to address issues arising from future growth that is anticipated from the Slough, Maidenhead and Windsor urban area.
RBWM and Slough Borough were awarded £947,000 from the Working Fund for “increased capacity in joint planning” between 2017 and 2019. This funding is being invested in a Wider Area Growth Study into housing needs, which is comprised of 2 parts:
Wider Area Growth Study Part 1 – Defining the area of search
The first part was commissioned in 2018 and explored the functional geographies associated with the Slough/Maidenhead/Windsor urban cluster.
The Part 1 Study was completed in 2019 and identified a geographic area of search for potentially accommodating the future growth needs of the Slough/Maidenhead and Windsor urban cluster.
The identified geographic area of search includes the following local authorities:
The full Part 1 report can be found here:
The recommendations are as follows:
In summary, we recommend two areas of search, as shown in the map above.
The narrow area [including Dorney and Taplow] has the best chance of meeting the needs of Slough. In addition to Slough borough, it includes the London Borough of Hillingdon and sections of RBWM and South Bucks district.
The above areas should be the starting point when looking for housing land to help meet the needs of our core area.
It almost goes without saying that new areas identified for housing development should be served by transport infrastructure that connects them to the main towns and employment areas in the core districts, as appropriate. In relation to Slough’s need specifically, homes would also need to be delivered at a price point prospective new residents could afford which may suggest some critical mass is needed as opposed to smaller schemes that take their values from existing settlements.
Local Housing Needs Assessment. To inform the emerging Local Plans and to help support Part 2 of the Wider Area Growth Study, the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead in conjunction with Slough Borough Council and Chiltern/South Bucks District Councils commissioned a study to carry out a Local Housing Needs Assessment (LHNA) .
The study, which was completed in October 2019, looked at the amount and nature of housing need within the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead, Slough and the southern part of South Bucks [south of the M40].
This study determined that the area had a total housing requirement of 1,454 dwellings per annum (14,540 dwellings over the 10 years). It is not clear whether these dwellings are included in the current Slough Borough Local Plan 2019/2039 or Chiltern & South Bucks Local Plan for 2016/2036. We suspect not.
The full Local Housing Needs Assessment report can be found here:
The Wider Area Growth Study Part 2, which started work in May 2020, will identify potential strategic spatial options for accommodating future development needs of the Slough/Maidenhead and Windsor urban area, test these options and make recommendations for consideration in relevant Local Plans and for use in Duty to Co-operate discussions.
It is expected to be completed in October 2020.
It may not be a pleasant read for Dorney and Taplow residents.
Prior to publication, I asked Roger Worthington, Secretary, Hitcham and Taplow Society, for his views on my article. I thank him for his extremely helpful comments, which were as follows:
Having given myself a headache reading and catching up I have no edits / corrections for your article which sets the situation out very clearly.
Atkins – September 2017 (click for report)
As part of the Review of the Local Plan 2013-2036 Slough Borough Council produced an Issues and Options Document which was the subject of public consultation in January and February 2017.
The Consultation document identified objectives to clarify the Council’s priorities and number of spatial options to deliver them.
The first objective was, “To meet the Objectively Assessed Housing Need (OAHN) of 927 dwellings per annum within the Borough or as close as possible to where the needs arises within a balanced housing market.”
The Consultation document recognised that even if all of the spatial options that were identified were implemented it would not be possible to accommodate all of Slough’s housing and employment needs within the Borough. As a result, a number of options were proposed which involved meeting this need elsewhere.
One of these, Option J1, involved the northern expansion of Slough into South Bucks in the form of a “garden suburb”. A broad area of search was identified from Burnham to Richings Park but no further details were included in the Consultation.
A large number of objections were received from local residents and organisations, many of whom were opposed to the principle of development in land designated as Green Belt.
Respondents were not however able to identify any other reasonable option or combination of options which would enable all of Slough’s housing and employment needs to be met sustainably within the Borough. As a result, the Council has chosen to continue to consider options such as the northern expansion.
In order to inform discussions about this and begin to test whether this is a realistic sustainable option the Council commissioned Atkins to produce a high level spatial plan to illustrate how a northern expansion could help re-balance Slough’s housing market and meet the potential shortfall of homes in the area over the Slough Local Plan period to 2036.
The draft proposals are set out in the “Slough Northern Extension” document. It should be noted that the report has been published for discussion purposes only at this stage.
It is recognised that the area proposed for the northern expansion is on land designated as Green Belt and so development cannot go ahead unless it can be demonstrated there are exceptional circumstances to alter the Green Belt boundary to accommodate it. This document does not address the case for exceptional circumstances.
The proposed urban extension is also within South Bucks District Council Planning Authority and Bucks County Council Transport Authority, which means that Slough is not the Planning Authority or Highway Authority for most of the area. This means that any review of the Green Belt or development in this location could only be implemented through the Chiltern and South Bucks Local Plan or a review of that Plan.
South Bucks and Chiltern District Councils are not supportive of the proposals and have requested Slough Borough Council insert the position statement on the following page as a Covering Note and reference to that throughout the document to provide readers of their view of its planning context.
The Local Plan is under Inspectorate Examination as at June 2020.
Following the Inspectors' initial findings on the Duty to Co-operate [related to the Slough Borough Council Northern Expansion Proposal], Bucks Council have requested that a Hearing Session is held. The Inspectors are amenable to holding a Hearing but at this time it is not known when one could take place. The correspondence can be found here.
Details on the how the Examination will proceed will be made available in due course.