A public consultation begins today on a forward housing plan for Central Bedfordshire. The consultation will run until 22nd February. After this, the Plan will go to an independent inspector to decide whether to either accept or reject the plan.
Central Bedfordshire Council's Local Plan could deliver up to 20,000 extra new homes and 24,000 new jobs up to 2035.
|Watch CBC Council Meeting|
The proposals were voted on at a meeting of Central Bedfordshire Council yesterday (10th January 2018). You can watch that meeting online which includes comments made by members of the public, objectors mainly from the east of the authority's area concerned about the allocations for their areas, or on the soundness of the Plan. To see the debate about the Local Plan click on section 9 or go to 54 mins into the webcast. You can also see the public comments from the beginning of section 4 (6 mins in).
In August 2017 CBC carried out a public consultation on its controversial draft Local Plan for housing which received a hugely negative public response.
The Council says that the proposed growth would be delivered alongside supporting roads, transport networks, schools and services, such as health, retail, leisure and community facilities, and new country parks.
The main new proposals for growth would mostly fall into four locations. There would be up to four new villages in the Marston Vale area, 4,000 new homes at Sundon to extend the urban area of Luton, 2,000 homes near Arlesey, and 1,500 extra homes would be built onto Biggleswade. In addition, there would be some growth in existing towns and villages (see maps), but only where services can support it.
The Council say they have recognised the need to keep the identity of existing town and villages and the rural character of an area, although objectors have argued otherwise. The Council has designated 19 areas as what it calls Important Countryside Gaps, to restrict development in these areas.
The plan calls for homes to rent and buy, with a mixture of sizes, and has a commitment to ensure that 30% will be provided as lower cost options, such as affordable rent and shared ownership.
This Plan identifies a requirement for 39,350 new houses up to 2035. 23,845 homes are already planned for or built.
Cllr Nigel Young, Conservative, Executive Member for Regeneration, said: “This is now the Local Plan that we will take forward, which will guide the development of fewer homes than originally proposed, though we do recognise that up to 20,000 homes over the next 20 years is still significant.
“However, by consulting residents now and submitting our plan before the end of March, we will retain control over where development will be located and how it is delivered rather than succumbing to the pitfalls of speculative development.
“Not all the homes will be built in one go, so the growth will be gradual. And it will be delivered with the supporting roads, transport networks, schools, shops, more parks and open spaces, community, leisure and health facilities that, during our previous consultations and engagement events, thousands of people told us were needed.
“We have listened to that feedback and now have a Local Plan that will deliver the homes and jobs our residents need, where they are needed, while creating communities where people want to live.”
Cllr Adam Zerny, Independent councillor for Potton, commented today on his Facebook Page, "Although there are now 368 new houses proposed in Leighton there are still none for Ampthill or Dunstable. The Council has acknowledged the plan could see a 40% increase in the amount of greenspace turned into developed land.
"I have raised concerns CBC provides no explanation of its numbers merely referring to a figure of 1,600 new houses per year but without explanation of how it arrived at this figure. I suspect the inspector will want to know.
"The Plan raves about 'Countryside gaps' which we are told will prevent villages and towns merging together. In actual fact they only seem to protect parts of villages and are certainly not the stop-gaps to development CBC seems to proclaim them. If they were proper barriers they'd be all the way round these villages not just on one small edge.
"In 2015 the last CBC development plan collapsed when CBC wasn't able to demonstrate a 'Duty to co-operate' with neighbouring local authorities whereby the Government obliges it to build the Plan in conjunction with other Councils. As a councillor, to date, I have been refused the evidence this has taken place with this Local Plan. Ironically, when you comment on this latest consultation, one of the questions you are asked is whether you think CBC complies with its Duty to Cooperate. Without any evidence, it is hard to say yes!"
Councillor Toni Ryan, Labour, Parkside Houghton Regis, told the executive meeting last night, "We feel that the word affordable is misleading and does not match the current income levels for Central Bedfordshire. This is bourne out of the increasing number of homeless people which includes 273 homeless children in Central Bedfordshire which is expected to soar this year.
"This plan does not recognise this. Developers have never built anywhere the numbers or types of houses that is needed as this is not in their financial interest to do so.
"And this country has only ever got anywhere near to tackling their housing problem when it built their own 'to rent' as other local authority areas are doing so, now.
"So, why does this plan not recognise this? CBC have regularly let developers off their affordable quotas when the question of financial viability is raised. CBC should make it clear that they will enforce the quotas in their policy and challenge any developers going forward."
|Link to larger map (pdf)|
HAVE YOUR SAYThe public can now have their say on the Plan until 5pm on 22nd February 2018. More detail about the individual growth locations and all supporting documents are available online.
During the consultation, the Council will be holding drop-in sessions where members of the public can speak to Council officers and ask questions. These will take place from 3pm-7.30pm on:
Thursday 18 January – Barton Rovers Football Club
Thursday 25th January – Lidlington Village Hall
Tuesday 30th January – Arlesey Village Hall
Thursday 8th February – Biggleswade Orchard Centre
Feedback can be submitted online or in writing to Local Plan, Central Bedfordshire Council, Priory House, Monks Walk, Chicksands, Shefford, SG17 5TQ.
The Council will collate and analyse all comments submitted during the consultation and consider what changes it would like to recommend to an independent Planning Inspector, who will hold a public examination of the Plan.
Residents can sign up for email updates about the Local Plan and Community Planning at http://www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/localplanupdates