Fiddling while Chesham Burns!

I hope that you read Andy Garnett’s letter in the last issue of yourChesham.

Chesham Renaissance is still working closely with Buckinghamshire Council and Chesham Town Council on a Regeneration Plan for Chesham. Bearing in mind that the group was set up in December 2020 to promote a quick recovery from Covid, progress has been painfully slow.

Yes, there are Visions, Strategies and Policies, but more importantly, no outcomes. We have not seen any resulting development in the Town.

We also watch from the sidelines the preparation of the Chesham Neighbourhood Plan. The Town Council eventually decided in 2019 to start a Plan and we have seen some informal consultations. Recently, workshops about the Neighbourhood Development Orders have taken place. We understand that this will lead to a statutory consultation later this year. But again, this does not get anything built.

Perversely, despite advocating a policy of development of town centre brownfield sites rather than Green Belt, where developers have made planning applications for housing development (including affordable), the Town Council has been recommending refusal.
Seemingly drawing together every negative reason they can think of.

Buckinghamshire Council (as planning authority) fortunately have recognised the gross shortfall in housing supply in the area and given this factor significant weight in determining two recent applications. Hence, we are seeing some limited development in the town centre.

It is development that will generate the funds for infrastructure improvement. We cannot expect one without the other. ‘They’ are not going to solve our problems. We as a community need to urgently find our own solutions.
As I write we are facing the closure of M & Co in the heart of our shopping centre.
I am reminded that two years ago Buckinghamshire Council agreed to acquire the Friars Square Shopping Centre in Aylesbury for regeneration purposes. It was agreed that in the longer term the acquisition would enable the Council to bring forward a regeneration scheme which would deliver benefits to the whole town and that if the centre was not acquired, masterplanning the area and delivering the plan would be more complex. No consultation took place with local councillors or community boards.
Surely, Buckinghamshire Council, we have a similar situation with M & Co in Chesham on a smaller scale and at significantly less cost. In the short term the M & Co site could provide income from smaller shops and (Council?) offices. For the longer term I have heard numerous suggestions from locals, principally focussed on a community building, housing maybe the Town Hall, a library, the museum and perhaps even the Elgiva. All of which would attract significant pedestrian flow to the centre and leave vacated (brownfield) sites for housing.
We will find out over the next few weeks how serious our Town Council and Buckinghamshire Council are about the regeneration of Chesham.

Roger Smith
Chesham Renaissance Community Interest Company