Development brief for 416 homes north of Biggleswade approved - despite over 700 objections

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A planning blueprint for land north of Biggleswade “has such far-reaching ability to permanently damage the town for the sake of building a few houses”, a meeting heard.

Developing the 42-acre site would be “the tip of the iceberg” locally and “to the detriment of nationally important archaeology”, according to Conservative Biggleswade North councillor Ian Bond.

“This is the last remaining green area and should not be forced as infill,” he told Wednesday’s Central Bedfordshire Council’s development management committee.

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Planning officer Nik Smith said the land, with access from Furzenhall Road, is in the emerging Local Plan for residential development.

Planning     (stock image)Planning     (stock image)
Planning (stock image)

Applicant Hallam Land Management Limited previously asked for its document detailing how up to 416 homes could be built north of the town to be put on hold.

More work was required on the development brief after CBC approved changes to its guidelines for such reports, just as it was due before the committee.

“The purpose of such a brief is to identify relevant planning policy and set out a vision and key principles which should be applied for a planning application, if one came forward,” explained Mr Smith.

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“Such a planning application for the site is with the council and is being assessed.

“Endorsing this brief doesn’t mean planning permission must be granted.”

Proposals for the site would include affordable housing, new roads, allotments, a community orchard and a children’s play area. There would also be cycleways, footpaths, parking and public open space.

Deputy mayor and Biggleswade town councillor Grant Fage told the committee development on this land “would have a severe impact on the road network of our town”.

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He asked why “a professional planning company would submit a transport assessment which doesn’t represent reality on Biggleswade roads”.

Speaking on behalf of Biggleswade History Society, Jane Dale said it strongly objects to the development brief.

“The site is in a very archaeologically sensitive area, with a Roman road running through it.”

Biggleswade resident Simon Denchfield disputed the brief’s claim that any housing would integrate with the local area, describing it as “an urban encroachment into open farmland and countryside”.

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He said: “The strength of feeling against the document is shown by 723 individual objection submissions out of 737 submitted.”

Conservative Biggleswade North councillor Steve Watkins said: “What we’re against is this particular site and its suitability for development.

“We’ve said Biggleswade is a growth area and we’re prepared to support development to the east of the town.

“It’s rare for an MP to be involved in a local planning matter.

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“North East Bedfordshire MP Richard Fuller has deemed to do so, realising it will have a detrimental impact on our town.”

Planning consultant Mark Hyde, on behalf of the applicant, said: “This is a proposed allocation in the draft Local Plan, which requires a development brief is prepared for the site.

“There was a community engagement process from early summer last year to Spring this year.”

He confirmed a transport assessment accompanied a planning application submitted three months after the brief, in November, with further changes made to the document in February.

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“We don’t accept the transport critique is well founded, but we’re responding to your highways officers and making necessary amendments to address the concerns,” he added.

Councillors endorsed the document by eight votes to two, after a move to defer it was defeated by the same margin