Delay on housing debate causes further confusion for Olney residents

    Olney Town Council has delayed a debate scheduled for Monday on a planning application for 250 new houses in the town after Milton Keynes Council planning officers said it would be 'inappropriate' for them to attend before the Neighbourhood Plan referendum.

    A statement on the Town Council website released earlier today states that "Milton Keynes Council officers have decided today that it would be inappropriate to attend [the Town Council meeting]. They are aware of the sensitivity in the run up to the Olney Plan Referendum on Thursday 6th July, and have taken the view that it will not be appropriate to attend the Town Council meeting on Monday due to the sensitive period towards the Referendum."

    The deferral of the debate is likely to shock some local residents, who remain confused as to the conflicting pieces of information they are receiving in the run up to the Neighbourhood Plan referendum on Thursday July 6th.

    Areas of disagreement mainly centre around whether residents have been made fully aware of the reasons behind proposals for 300 new houses being included in the Neighbourhood Plan for the town.

    A questionnaire issued to residents in the autumn of 2014 stated that "Olney had to identify sites for 325-350 additional dwellings, and that the figure was non-negotiable" according to the Neighbourhood Plan.

    Official Olney Town Council literature on the referendum currently maintains that all housing proposed in the plan is "as required to meet [the] local housing target."

    However, Milton Keynes Council have told MKFM that "since 2014/15, a number of neighbourhood plans have been adopted (including Newport Pagnell). Furthermore, a series of relatively large planning applications within the rural area have been granted permission, particularly within the last six months."

    "At the present time, the adopted plans and permissions are together now providing enough housing within the rural area as a whole to meet the Core Strategy rural housing requirement."

    This confusion was further increased after Cllr Peter Geary, Milton Keynes Ward Councillor for Olney, stated during an MKFM debate that "current planning policy states that development should not happen in the open countryside."

    Responding to a series of questions on the implications of a No vote in the referendum, Cllr Geary said "Milton Keynes Council will not be imposing a plan or housing target on Olney [if a No vote is made], as they are doing for the rest of the city. It would go back to letting local people making local decisions."

    Meanwhile, the official Neighbourhood Plan maintains that "the Neighbourhood Plan allocates a total of 300 new dwellings to meet the Milton Keyens Council Core Strategy Housing requirements up to the end of the Neighbourhood Plan period in 2031, and achieve a sustainable form of development."

    The Olney Neighbourhood Plan Referendum is scheduled to take place on Thursday 6th July.

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