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MP Cheryl Gillan proposes national park status for Chilterns

Cheryl Gillan

8:02am 1st April 2018

The Chiltern's Area of Natural Beauty could one day be a national park.

MP Cheryl Gillan announced that she is considering applying for the status to protect the area from increasing pressure by developers.

Speaking at the Annual General Meeting of the Chesham and Amersham Conservative Association, Dame Cheryl revealed that housing and infrastructure development pressure from the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), HS2, and Government house-building targets had pushed her to considering applying for National Park status for the Chilterns in order to protect it.

The Chiltern Hills are currently classified as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), meaning that development should only be permitted on the land under "exceptional circumstances" and in the "public interest" according to the Countryside Act 1949 which governs AONBs.

In spite of this, housing development in the Chilterns is increasing year-on-year, while the HS2 route is due to go straight through the AONB.

In a debate on the Chilterns held by Dame Cheryl in the House of Commons in January, she drew attention to the multiple and uncoordinated pressures on Buckinghamshire that were irrevocably impacting the Chilterns. She pointed to the creeping housing development in spite of the 1949 Act guidelines, stating:

"In the Chilterns AONB, an average of 138 units a year were approved between 2012 and 2015. This number almost trebled to 386 during the shorter period of 2015 to 2017. That is a worrying trend."

As a National Parks, the Chilterns would have its own independent planning authority, whereas as an AONB, it relies solely on the local authorities and planning inspectors for its protection. The local authorities are simultaneously under pressure from the Government to rapidly build more houses: while the Chiltern District Council area is around 70% AONB, they need to demonstrate that they will, jointly with South Bucks District Council, meet the target of 14,900 new dwellings by 2036.

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