Residents in parts of Biggleswade and Tempsford could be breathing a sigh of relief as large-scale housing plans have come under the scrutiny of the Planning Inspectorate.
The areas were set to be swamped by new homes as part of Central Bedfordshire Council’s Local Plan, which allocates future housing growth.
But, even before the document has been aired in public, an inspector has picked holes in several issues relating to it.
These include the reasoning behind some areas being earmarked for homes, and other issues, such as the local authority not having a ‘statement of common ground’ agreement with Luton Borough Council.
The Inspector’s role is to consider what is known as the soundness of the Local Plan before holding a public inquiry.
The foreword to the draft Local Plan quoted Cllr Nigel Young, saying: “Our plan has always been about more than planning just for homes and jobs. It’s about creating communities.”
The council included a series of large developments as an appendix as locations for future growth, including Biggleswade and Tempsford, according to Independent Potton councillor Adam Zerny.
He describes the Local Plan as “chaotic”, and says the council has “very quietly backed down on a significant housebuilding pledge”. “It was completely inappropriate to include these sites when the council acknowledged it did not have the full reports required for these locations,” he said.
The inspector has now said: “Given these sites are not allocated or within a policy, their inclusion on the policies map appears unjustified and the weight that could be given to them in development management decisions unclear.”
The Inspector also comments that Natural England has raised “significant outstanding concerns” over “a lack of proper assessment of the impacts of development”.
And he noted that Highways England has concerns the Local Plan is “not sufficiently detailed to understand their (new homes) full effect on the operation of key junctions on the strategic road network”.
In its initial response, posted on its website, the council says: “The inconsistency of identifying these locations for future growth spatially on the Policy Maps, despite the fact that they are not linked to a policy, is noted.
“And so it is proposed that any future revision will remove them, and just retain Appendix 7 of The Local Plan for reference. “The rationale for including these locations is to provide absolute transparency for residents and stakeholders of our intention to look further at these when planning for additional growth as part of the partial plan review.”
On its duty to co-operate, the council says: “Further meetings have been scheduled with Luton Borough Council in order to resolve outstanding issues and agree a ‘statement of common ground’.
Councillor Zerny said: “This means Central Bedfordshire Council is now backing-down on a significant point and removing the huge housing sites at Tempsford and Biggleswade from its Appendix.
“The council states it’s working with Highways England, Natural England and Luton Borough Council, and is hoping to provide more information on why certain sites were selected and others were not.
“I am not surprised to see the inspector making these points,” he added. “After all, this is exactly what we were saying at the time.
“It is strange how many councillors and indeed the public at large have not been made aware of these recent developments.
“Instead they have been hidden away on Central Bedfordshire Council’s website.”
A decision has yet to be reached as to when the public inquiry into the Local Plan will take place.