Central Beds' Local Plan to be re-examined by planning inspectors

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A public examination of Central Bedfordshire Council’s Local Plan is due to resume next month with 112 issues to be resolved by planning inspectors.

Virtual hearing sessions are due to begin on Tuesday, December 8, for two weeks, with a reserve day set for January 12, 2021.

CBC submitted its Local Plan for examination on April 30, 2018, but it has suffered a series of setbacks.

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The document sets out future strategic policies in Central Bedfordshire.

CBC head offices in ChicksandsCBC head offices in Chicksands
CBC head offices in Chicksands

These include housing and industrial growth, development in the countryside and Green Belt issues, along with sustainability measures.

It also covers transport, town centres and retail, the economy and employment, as well as planning for traveller sites.

A need for 39,350 new houses up to 2035 was put forward by the local authority, with 23,845 properties planned for or built already.

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This covers 32,000 homes identified for Central Bedfordshire, with 7,350 properties “as a contribution towards Luton’s unmet housing need”.

New strategic road and rail projects are part of the potential infrastructure changes, which could help create 24,000 new jobs.

The initial public examination hearing sessions were held between May and July 2019.

Four areas of significant housing demand are identified in the Local Plan:

> 1,500 houses east of Biggleswade;

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> 2,000 properties at Arlesey incorporating Henlow, Stotfold and Fairfield;

> 5,000 homes absorbing the villages of Lidlington and Millbrook;

> And a further 4,000 north of Luton.

Other developments in Sandy, Tempsford, Barton-le-Clay, Aspley Guise and Chalton were considered superfluous.

Initial analysis by planning inspectors Matthew Birkinshaw and Helen Hockenhull led to 91 queries, while they “expressed some very serious concerns about the soundness of the Local Plan” in a letter to CBC.

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Extra evidence has been submitted by the council concerning “the main soundness and legal compliance issues raised by the inspectors”, according to their introductory note on the CBC website.

There were 466 responses when the fresh material was subject to public consultation during the summer.

Independent Potton councillor Adam Zerny said: “It’s now nearly three years since the Local Plan was approved by councillors, despite opposition from many members of the public and independent councillors .

“Before the document can be formally adopted by the council, it must be approved by a government inspector.

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“Without a Local Plan, CBC has fewer defences against unscrupulous developers.”

Areas of concern include whether the proposed property numbers are right, the housing allocation north of Luton, and employment areas, including warehousing east of Biggleswade.

The controversial M1/A6 link road from junction 11a of the M1 through to Barton Road is also included.

It was approved earlier this year, despite Luton Borough Council seeking a judicial review over the £64.6m development in the Green Belt.

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“If the inspectors are satisfied following the hearings in December, we can anticipate they’ll invite the council to draft proposed modifications to address any issues identified throughout the process,” said CBC.

“Any modifications that are required, once agreed by the inspectors, will be subject to their own six-week consultation.”