Roger Wilding, the Chairman of the Wycombe Wildlife Group, has published his views on the proposed Gomm Valley development, we are pleased to reproduce his words taken from their recent newsletter.
‘The decision by Wycombe District Council to release all of their “reserve sites” for development meant that the loss of the last unspoilt valley off the A40 corridor through High Wycombe was inevitable. As was the case with the other “reserve sites”, a liaison group was formed to take account of the views of local residents and other interested parties to produce and agree a development brief for the site against which future planning applications could
be assessed. A development brief was agreed for both Gomm Valley and the adjoining Ashwells reserve site and although a planning application was subsequently received for the WDC-owned Ashwells site, the expected planning application for the AXA-owned Gomm Valley site was not received when it was expected. A further meeting of the liaison committee was convened by WDC in May this year at which its members were informed by a representative of Aviva, which had taken over the ownership of Gomm Valley from AXA, that they had appointed a new company to take on the task of developing the site.
Representatives of this new company, Human Nature, then gave an outline of their proposals for the site and notified their intention of organising an event in Gomm Valley which would enable the
public to find out more about their plans.
I attended the resulting public consultation event at the end of June with an open mind, feeling that the plans to incorporate a mini village at the Gomms Road entrance to the valley, along with a school and leisure amenities and a proposed increase in the number of housing units on the site would result in a greater biodiversity loss than would have occurred as a result of implementation of the previously agreed development brief. Having listened to the presentations by Human Nature’s team of experts on ecology, transport and sustainable living, however, I came to the conclusion that the company had not only taken account of the need to preserve the most important aspects of the Valley’s existing natural history interest, but were proposing to extend and improve them by increasing the length of hedgerows, planting lots of trees, converting much of the existing arable land into chalk grassland, and creating public footpaths through the valley. This latter provision is very important because there are none at present. Most importantly of all, Human Nature’s proposals address the issue of the provision of on-going funding to provide a team of ”rangers” to be based on site to take responsibility for the site’s initial natural habitat improvements and for their ongoing future maintenance.
There will of course be housing in Gomm Valley, more than proposed in the previously agreed development brief, but the density will be higher for most of the new homes, whilst providing some larger low density properties. All the housing will incorporate environmentally friendly standards including the capture of rainwater which will be piped to ponds at the southern end of the valley. A low-speed spur road will need to be provided, but the provision of e-bikes and a car pool for the use of residents have been suggested as ways of reducing car ownership needs. The mini village complex would incorporate a general store, bakery, cafe/restaurant and a meeting room and there would be communal allotments and possibly an outlet for the sale of its produce.
A bus service would provide links to the town centre and railway station, and it is hoped that this together with the proposed on-site primary school will also help to reduce car dependency.
Discussion with representatives of the Chiltern Society and BBOWT who have been involved in discussions on the future of Gomm Valley would appear to suggest that they feel that the new
development proposals offer a better outcome for the valley and its links with adjoining areas of natural history interest.
During discussions with the developers, I mentioned the Round Wycombe Walk being planned by WWG and that we saw Gomm Valley being included in the walk’s route. The developers showed an interest in this and said that it ought to be possible to route the walk through the valley once the paths have been provided without waiting for the completion of the development which could take 8 years.
The Liaison Group met again on 2nd August when Human Nature stated that they were generally pleased with the way their public consultation went, stating that 90% of the attendees had expressed broad agreement to the proposals, the main areas of concern relating to parking and traffic issues. The total number of housing units now proposed is 970 consisting of 30% with 1 bedroom, 30% with 2 bedrooms, 30% with 3 bedrooms and 10% with 4 bedrooms. It was pointed out by the developers that the scheme had to be financially viable and that the number of houses built was a major factor in providing funding for the biodiversity improvements.
There was a further opportunity on 21st August for Liaison Group members to meet the developers and discuss their latest, more detailed proposals for the design and layout of the housing, streets
and parking and their ideas for improving the biodiversity of the undeveloped parts of the valley and for the on-going management of the latter.
Please take a look at www.wycombewildlifegrp.co.uk for more information from Wycombe Wildlife Group
This is how the developers described their aspirations for Gomm Valley at their ‘Community Engagement and Design’ event held in the fields behind the Peregrine Business Park over the weekend of 30 June/2 July. This took the form of an exhibition illustrating the development objectives, together with explanatory talks and Q&A. The developer selected by Aviva (as landowner), is known as ‘Human + Nature’(H+N), which has assembled a team with strong credentials in the planning and design of sustainable communities.’