Have your say over planned changes to Central Beds Council's Local Plan

Central Beds Council's Chicksands headquartersCentral Beds Council's Chicksands headquarters
Central Beds Council's Chicksands headquarters
The plan identifies huge housing demand in Biggleswade and Arlesey

A six-week public consultation begins today (Friday, March 19) into planned changes to Central Bedfordshire Council's Local Plan.

Residents and local organisations are invited to have their say on proposed modifications to the long-awaited document.

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Controversy has surrounded aspects of the Local Plan since the council submitted it for examination in April 2018.

Two weeks of extra sessions were held virtually in December to reconsider some of the potential development areas.

The local authority's fears it might have to start the whole procedure again receded when there was no call from the planning inspectors for any further hearings.

"The consultation seeks views on all the main modifications being planned, as well as a sustainability appraisal report and a habitats regulations assessment addendum," explained the council.

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"Other proposed adjustments include changes to the Local Plan policy maps.

"We've also published extra (minor) modifications, as well as a draft version of the Local Plan, with the consultation documents.

"These don't form part of the consultation, but are available to help inform everyone of the potential changes.

"This main modifications consultation follows on from public examination sessions which took place during summer 2019 and December 2020."

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CBC submitted a list of post hearing actions and modifications to the inspectors, in line with requests made during the hearings.

The inspectors have replied with various questions of clarification on some of the detail sent.

The Local Plan sets out future strategic policies and proposed development across Central Bedfordshire until 2035.

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

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

The general feeling is we're working towards something that will be found acceptable, rather than having to start again," Conservative Caddington councillor Kevin Collins told a sustainable communities overview and scrutiny committee meeting in January.

"The next significant stage in this process is the inspectors send a formal letter to CBC on hopefully what they think is required to make the plan acceptable.

"Then we'll be looking to adopt it by the middle of 2021," added councillor Collins, who's the executive member for regeneration and planning.

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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.

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.

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

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.