Meppershall villagers told new homes plan - ‘not our fault’

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An apology has been made to Meppershall residents over the number of properties the village is having to accommodate.

A further 60 houses have been approved on land off Shefford Road, which used to be a nursery.

The site is opposite an area where 145 homes were refused by Central Bedfordshire councillors, but granted on appeal by a planning inspector.

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“It isn’t our fault,” councillor Nigel Young told the council’s development management committee last week.

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“I have to say to residents of Meppershall I think it’s extremely unfortunate that the Planning Inspectorate simply ignores the views of residents, ignores the emerging Local Plan and ignores the views of this committee.

“It’s a complete mystery to me why that would happen. I apologise. It isn’t our fault.

“We refused the 145, and I’m surprised that the planning inspector decided that he would approve it.”

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The latest scheme involves demolishing some nursery buildings, as well as 32 Shefford Road to provide access to the seven-and-a-half acre site.

Meppershall parish councillor Paul Smith said: “There were 55 objections and none in support received from the public, which shows the unsuitability and lack of merit perceived by the local community.

“It should be refused at this time on the grounds of prematurity until it can be properly and fairly assessed once the Local Plan is approved.

“Stocken House was approved on appeal and 145 homes are to be built immediately opposite 32 Shefford Road.

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“With that and other developments, Meppershall has far exceeded its allocation proposed for the area, and this site is not required.”

Paul Galgey, from Planning Potential, planning consultants for applicant Inland Homes PLC, said: “These features include a pocket park at the heart of the development and public open space.

“The proposals will deliver 60 high quality new homes, with an emphasis on family sized housing.

“We are acutely aware of local sensitivities and concerns raised around further development in Meppershall, but this proposal reflects a plan-led approach.”

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Cllr Anthony Brown said: “Meppershall has been undergoing sustained development for more than three years now on both brownfield and greenfield sites.

“The recently allowed appeal for 145 homes on the other side of the road, along with this proposal for 60 houses, will add significant pressure on the village infrastructure and on Shefford, which is the nearest market town.

“Meppershall does not have good infrastructure facilities unless you have a car.

“Perhaps if the appeal for 145 properties had not been allowed this scheme would have been more palatable to the village.

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“But the layout and design of this development appears to be of a higher quality than some others we are aware of.”

“I would expect all of these homes will come forward within five years,” added councillor Young, who’s the executive member for regeneration.

“I sense a reluctance from the developer to part with cash. I am not getting a ‘yes we’ll absolutely do that’.

“Here’s the message I would like to send to the developer. You absolutely will.

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“Those are the contributions that the community requires and those are the contributions which should be in the Section 106 agreement.

“So the message is we feel very strongly about this,” he explained.

“Officers come forward with requests for benefits to the local community, which are outdoor sport, children’s play and the allotments.

“It’s perfectly reasonable. New development should always benefit the local community.

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“That’s the trade off for the number of houses that one acknowledges Meppershall has taken, albeit the biggest chunk of that was done from Bristol.”

The committee approved the plans with ten votes in favour, none against, and one abstention.