Central Bedfordshire Council will hold Community Planning workshop events in Houghton Regis on 9 March and Studham on 22 March.
The events are a chance for residents, local businesses and councillors of the towns and parishes to have a say on their priorities for the local area. The first event, at Bedford Square, covers Dunstable and Houghton Regis, while the second event, at Studham Village Hall, covers Eaton Bray, Hyde, Kensworth, Stanbridge, Billington, Tilsworth, Totternhoe, Slip End, Caddington, Whipsnade and Studham.
The events (both 2:30-7:30pm) will aim to engage residents on how to plan for sustainable growth, local infrastructure (open spaces, education provision, transport links, health provision etc) and new homes. And, by learning what is important to communities, the Council will build up a picture of local needs.
A Community Plan report will be produced, which will first inform the Council's emerging Local Plan, in terms of shaping sustainable growth up to 2035. But it will also have wider implications beyond that and will be used as a tool to have ongoing engagement, such as informing decisions about future planning applications and what conditions the Council might put in place around certain developments.
For example, developers sometimes have a duty to give financial contributions, which are used to help provide schools, roads and other infrastructure in the area where new homes are to be built. The Community Plan can be used to inform where that money could be best spent in the local area.
While the Council has temporarily paused its Local Plan process, pending the publication of a Government Housing White Paper, early this year, the Community Planning events continue as scheduled. Councillor Nigel Young, Executive Member for Regeneration, said: "This pause will not only mean we can fully assess the implications of any forthcoming changes in national policy, but it means that we will have held all the Community Planning events prior to the first draft of the Local Plan being published, which can therefore be more informed by local issues.
"But our vision is that, by producing a Community Plan for these areas, the information collected will extend beyond the Local Plan process and will be updated as some areas develop and grow and therefore their needs and issues change. The aim, therefore, is that the events are the first step in an ongoing dialogue with the community themselves.
"For instance, the plan will be able to help inform where in the local area to spend Section 106 or Community Infrastructure Levy money – the financial contributions resulting from new developments.
"Some communities may also choose to take their Community Plan as the start of developing a Neighbourhood Plan. In these cases, the community themselves will very much start to take ownership of the plan and therefore more control over shaping where they live."
The two events are part of a series of scheduled workshops that have been taking place across Central Bedfordshire, with the Council grouping towns and parishes together into 15 community areas, and running a workshop event in each area.
Visit www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/communityplanning to see when and where the remaining Community Planning events are taking place and a video explaining how it works and what to expect when you get there.