Tithe Farm Road — Fury As 3-storey Homes are Approved


12 town houses are to be built near Tithe Farm Recreation Ground. Councillors at Development Management meeting of Central Bedfordshire Council yesterday (6 March 2019) gave the approval despite objections from Houghton Regis Town Council and others.

The site was previously used by St Vincents Catholic church, since demolished. The planning Application No. CB/18/02275/FULL (Tithe Farm).

The site lies within the Green Belt. Access to plots 1-7 will be from a cul-de-sac off Tithe Farm Road, and plots 8-12 will be accessed directly off Tithe Farm Road, many of them fronting the junction with Recreation Road. The homes will be three storeys high with accommodation in the roof. There will be four affordable homes.

Very special circumstances were demonstrated in a report to the Council which outweighed the inappropriateness of construction on Green Belt land. This included that it was brownfield land, the Houghton Regis North Strategic Allocation outline permission was very close to the site, and the previous history of the site which was a 58-bed nursing home which had permission until 7th January this year.

Existing properties are over 30 metres away to the south and west of the site. The site was said in the meeting to have a less visual impact on the area than the previous nursing home application which could have been implemented until very recently. Officers considered there was no harm to residential amenities as a result of the proposals.

A condition will require the removal of a parking space for plot 8 as it is too close to a bus stop. Improvements to Short Path on the western side are also needed. Officers recommended approval of the proposals.

Cllr Jimmy Carroll, chair of Houghton Regis Town Council Planning Committee addressed the meeting, “With regards to this site, our comments are, the lack of parking and visitor parking appears to conflict with CBC's parking standards which states that an equivalent of 0.2 spaces per dwelling should be provided for visitor parking. Also, increased street parking could occur in the vicinity of the bus stop. Proposed drop kerb, access and egress to properties to 8-12 conflict with buses needing to use the bus stop. Town Council acknowledges that the previous planning permission granted in January 2014, although it was for a large nursing home, feels that the height of the proposed dwellings would be out of keeping with surrounding properties and therefore lead to an overbearing development which would be to the detrimental of neighbouring properties. ”

“The proposed development site does NOT abut a large urban extension. It is a stand-alone development,” he said.

“Historically the site was part of a community space and recreation ground and when permission for the nursing home was given it was under very special planning circumstances. The Town Council of the day felt the nursing home would have been a good community type use, providing jobs et cetra for this part of the town ”

Cllr Carroll also expressed concern that the police architectural officer had not been asked to comment on the development. The police are now taking an active interest in planning applications to comment on security aspects. Later, in addressing this concern, the planning officer said that the small size of this development fell short of inviting the police to make a comment.

Finally, Cllr Carroll mentioned that the nearby skatepark was floodlit and open until 9, 10 o'clock at night.

A developer representative spoke in favour of the scheme, saying it would make less intensive use of the land than the earlier nursing home scheme which was to be three storeys high and had been approved.

Cllr Tony Swain, CBC councillor for Tithe Farm, spoke from the public chairs, "Large three-storey buildings are going to block the view of other houses looking over a play area and a skate park. We've got problems in that area with drug trafficking, and things like that that go on. So that's a very big concern of mine. We've got a social and moral obligation. You've got areas where children are going to be playing with very little supervision and then you've got drug dealers there as well, and nobody's going to be able to overlook it. All the houses along Tithe Farm Road, I've driven by there, are not going to overlook areas at the back behind them buildings. You're talking about three-storey buildings with high pitched roofs,  no one is going to be able to look out. That is one of my biggest concerns. Three-storey buildings will out of place there because you've got a street full of two-storey low pitched buildings so it will look completely out of place.”

Asked about the lighting in the skate park, Cllr Swain said the view was going to be blocked in the daytime too, and that the skate park was lit until 10pm. Asked about drug dealing there, and the distance from the houses in Tithe Farm Road, Cllr Swain said they had a limited contribution to that, but pointed out a potential blind spot, and said that the area was well known for drug trafficking.

The CBC officer pointed out that plot number 1 would have windows facing the play area so there would be natural surveillance of the playground. As more people would be using the development site, there would be more natural surveillance than at present from people coming and going on the site.

The Highways officer said that a development of this kind should deliver 2 parking spaces per plot, which it did. He also said there should be 3 visitor parking spaces, but that alone was not a reason for refusing planning permission. That parking should, he said, be able to be dispersed in the surrounding area. The parking space for plot 8 should be relocated, he said.

Cllr Mike Blair made an appeal for the room sizes to comply with the CBC Design Guide, but the officer said a condition on that could not be imposed, nor given as a reason for refusal.

Members voted to support the development. 

David Abbott, Independent Tithe Farm Town Councillor, commented afterwards, “This perverse decision by Central Bedfordshire shows the importance of the emerging Neighbourhood Plan as it will give the Town Council a much stronger voice. As it stands, even though our very own Planning Committee made good and valid points as to why this proposal should have been rejected, these were ignored. As well as problems with access, a vision of sardines in a can comes to mind with so much building crammed into such a small space. If the development goes ahead, it will make me cross every time I walk past it.”

Tracey McMahon, Independent Tithe Farm Town Councillor, was furious at the news of the application being approved. Writing on Houghton Regis News Desk Facebook Page she wrote, “I am actually furious that this application for housing has been granted. The Town Council vehemently objected last year when this first came up, and have made their position clear. There were multiple reasons within planning regulations to object, and I gave them (CBC) a huge list! We have had representatives from the town attend this meeting as well. This area should be used for community! This application goes against the aspirations of the emerging Neighbourhood Plan, and sets a very dangerous precedent to allow developers to build poor design, high density, 3 storey buildings where ever they please! CBC - You‘ve made a big mistake, and this isn’t the last you’ve heard from the people of Houghton Regis!”

Mark Jones, a local resident, commented on Houghton Regis News Desk Facebook Page, “It's been like that for the past 20 years. If this was going to be used for Community then why haven't it happened by now. It will be housing as there is nothing else happening. We are seeing another small piece of land on Windsor Drive being up for development.”

Read more public comments on our Facebook page.

HOUGHTON REGIS NEWS DESK EDITORIAL COMMENT: The decision calls into question the value of The Central Bedfordshire Design Guide. Now that a precedent has been set,  developers may well cut more corners knowing that CBC will just roll over and let it all happen. This is bad news for all the thousands of new homes yet to come forward around Houghton Regis. Read My Full Comments on the application.