Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Councillors in Dilemma Over Green Belt Development Proposals

The view towards Houghton Regis Chalk Quarry from Thorn Road in 2012. Photo A D Winter 2012.

alanwinter.lu5@gmail.com

At Monday's Planning Committee, Houghton Regis Town Councillors were in a dilemma as to what objections to make as three proposals were before them for developments in the Green Belt.

The developments proposed are a Winter Maintenance and Highways Depot, a Waste Park, and outline permission for employment buildings, all for Central Bedfordshire Council, and all on land designated as Green Belt between Thorn Road near the A5, and Houghton Regis Chalk Quarry. 

One of the original and main reasons for creating the South Bedfordshire Green Belt was to prevent the coalescence of, inter alia, Dunstable, and Houghton Regis, as well as the villages that lie within it.

And last year, the Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said:

"I am crystal clear that the green belt must be protected from development, so it can continue to offer a strong defence against urban sprawl."

"Today’s new rules strengthen these protections further, and ensure that whether it’s new homes, business premises or anything else, developers first look for suitable sites on brownfield land." [Ref.]

Locally, there is an expectation that the edge of the Green Belt will be rolled back to the line of the A5-M1 link road once it is completed, as part of the northern expansion of Houghton Regis. But the dilemma for local councillors is that is has not been rolled back yet.  


The land, known as "Angels" [ref.] in ancient times, is screened from the A5 by an embankment and mature trees to the west. In the vicinity is a Waste Water Treatment Works, agricultural land, and a shooting range.

In the planning supporting statement for the winter maintenance site, it is stated that to respond to winter maintenance requirements and emergency highways maintenance issues, there would be times when it is in operation up to 24 hours a day. And if this new site is developed it will release land currently used on Brewer’s Hill Road for a development more appropriate to that area.

The current Household Waste Recycling Centre (HWRC) at Frenchs Avenue is constrained by nearby residential uses and that land has stability issues as it was once used as a landfill site, so the Council are seeking a replacement HWRC. 

Planning Supporting Statements for the developers argue that they have demonstrated very special circumstances for their development.

Notwithstanding their concerns, Houghton Regis Town councillors agreed not to formally object to the proposals, but spoke about raising their concerns over vehicle access, and potentially heavy traffic movements along Thorn Road, eastwards, towards proposed new housing estates. Concern was also expressed about potential pollution of the Ouzel Brook, and noise.


APPLICATIONS

2015/01627/MW: Development of a winter maintenance depot (including salt storage barn, outdoor salt mixing area & stabling for gritting vehicles), highways depot (including stores area and vehicle maintenance shed, together with storage for vehicles and spares and vehicles associated with the Council’s landscaping function), office block, overnight parking for highways maintenance and transport passenger fleet vehicles, staff car/cycle parking, operational yards, lighting, fencing, drainage, landscaping and new access road from Thorn Road. Planning Supporting Statement
Land at Thorn Turn, Thorn Road
For:  Central Bedfordshire Council

2015/01626/MW: Development of a Waste Park comprising waste transfer station, split level household waste recycling centre and resale building, together with new access road from Thorn Road. Planning Supporting Statement.
Land at Thorn Turn, Thorn Road
For:  Central Bedfordshire Council

2015/01928/REG3: Outline application:  B1, B2, B8 employment with associated infrastructure and ancillary works.  All matters reserved except means of access.
Land at Thorn Turn, Thorn Road
For:  Central Bedfordshire Assets