M1-A6 Link Road - Objectors Step Up Their Concerns
by Cllr Mary Walsh (Independent, CBC)
The Secretary of State has refused to consider the application for the M1 A6 Link Road, proposed to be built through the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in the Green Belt of Bedfordshire.
The Secretary of State is leaving the decision on the A6 M1 Link Road to be taken by CBC, as he considers it a local matter. In doing so he appears to have shown complete disregard for the protection offered to this wonderful and irreplaceable landscape within the Government's own National Planning Policy Framework. He also disregards the opinions of the Chilterns Conservation Board, the Woodland Trust, the Chilterns Conservation Society, CPRE (Bedfordshire), Natural England, Luton Borough Council plus many, many others including individual residents.
National AssetIn saying that this is a decision to be taken locally, he appears to forget this is a national asset, valued by many beyond our borders and not lightly designated as one of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Climate change has yet to be considered in any such decisions and is obviously not a concern of this Government or of CBC. When will we begin to do that for every decision and when will we see the Government's 25-year Environment Plan referenced in terms of such decisions?
However, surely it is the case that the SoS does have to give his permission to build in the Green Belt and that can't be considered a local matter - so what happens next and what will be the final result of the Inspection of the Local Plan, given the Inspectors' comments?
Natural England wrote - Paragraph 172 of the NPPF provides a default of no major development within an AONB unless certain criteria are applied to demonstrate that there are exceptional circumstances to justify this. In our opinion, these criteria have not been met. A specific omission in this regard is that the application does not fully justify why alternative routes have been ruled out (section 3.1 Volume 2 ES). Consequently, the need for this development to be delivered within the AONB has not been demonstrated.
The Local Plan Inspectors appeared to agree with this view.
So, the questions remain to be answered, could this road have been built without crossing the AONB and is it justified? If not how can it meet the test of exceptional circumstances?
Streatley Parish Council had supported the road application as it would remove the intolerable level of HGV's using the village as a rat run. Their submission in response to the Planning application did raise concerns about the design and the risk of more traffic on the A6 - a concern reflected in Luton Borough Council's objection to the road. Others, such as Sundon's objections, included the damage caused to ancient woodlands and the AONB and they called for their access to Sundon Park to be maintained, Chalton would suffer the most the effects of the freight traffic, noise and pollution associated with this Link Road. Harlington opposed it on these grounds and the impact on Junction 12 of the M1, and cumulative impacts remain unknown to a large extent.
The application had been approved by Central Beds Council entirely as it was put forward, no changes whatsoever have been made to reflect any of those views or concerns, despite the overwhelming objections made to the plan as it stood.
It must be remembered that the road includes the access from the yet to be approved Rail Freight Interchange to the M1. This site is located beside the protected Site of Special Scientific Interest in the Green Belt at Sundon Quarry. According to CBC the road is intended for the transport of freight, as part of plans for the Ox Cam Arc, and to facilitate over 42 hectares of warehousing to be built at Sundon Quarry and along the route of the road. The road is also said to be essential to the provision of housing North of Luton.
The Inspectors' letter makes interesting reading in respect of all of this, as does the latest letter from Highways England in response to the road application.
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