Multi-million pound Biggleswade development plans deferred as councillor warns town could be left 'shortchanged'

A decision on the plans for land east of Biggleswade have been deferred until autumn

By Euan Duncan, Local Democracy Reporter
Thursday, 4th August 2022, 11:12 am

Biggleswade will be “shortchanged” if rising costs fail to be reflected in developer contribution talks about a multi-million pound planning scheme east of the town, a meeting heard.

UK Regeneration Limited’s outline plans for housing, a primary school, and commercial and leisure development on a 263-acre site has been deferred for discussions to take place between the applicant and planning officers.

But inflationary pressures need to be taken into account, according to Independent Biggleswade South councillor Hayley Whitaker.

CBC headquarters, Chicksands.

“Much has changed since this original application was granted,” she told Central Bedfordshire Council’s development management committee.

“We now have a retail park with a discount super store and a fast food chain, so the flow of traffic in the area has increased significantly,” she explained.

“I’ve a huge question about whether that previous approval is still valid. It would cause huge problems for residents of London Road if this application went ahead and we put traffic controls at that junction.

“The applicant indicated a desire to pay far less in Section 106 contributions. A reduction of around £12m was suggested, which would cover our Schools for the Future programme or make a huge contribution to that.

“There were some social housing cuts in the request, and a few other elements. We didn’t agree to enter negotiations, but some sort of discussion to clarify our position.

“The best route would be to refuse this application. Since 2019, costs have gone through the roof,” she added. “So I don’t want us to get a mirrored agreement.

“If this is going through, we need to see an uplift of 25 per cent because otherwise the residents of Biggleswade will be shortchanged.”

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Head of planning delivery Jennie Selley said: “Outline planning permission was granted for this site in March 2019, subject to a Section 106 agreement to secure planning obligations.

“That had access from Baden Powell Way and has expired now. A second application was submitted and proposed alternative access arrangements, one off Baden Powell Way and the other to the south of Dunton Lane.

“This was approved in November 2019, subject to planning conditions and a Section 106 agreement. It was reported back in September 2021 asking whether officers should engage in developer contribution negotiations requested by the applicant.

“The committee resolved the Section 106 heads of terms should materially be the same as originally agreed, and that officers should have reasonable talks with the applicant.

“Officers have been trying to speak to the company about this since then. After the report was published, a representative of the applicant has indicated a willingness for talks with the council.”

Conservative Caddington councillor Kevin Collins said: “It was acknowledged by the applicant’s agent that in reviewing the basis of Section 106 items there would be a possibility things could go up, as well as down.

“If costs have risen since the determination to approve, subject to Section 106 contributions, the applicant needs to reflect on the time it’s taken to engage.”

Councillors deferred the plans until October, with eight votes in favour, two against and two abstentions.