A document setting out future strategic policies in Central Bedfordshire has received its biggest boost so far.
Planning inspectors have sent a letter to Central Bedfordshire Council (CBC) after a series of extra Local Plan hearings were held in December.
New council leader and Conservative Arlesey councillor Richard Wenham described its content as “very positive news” at an executive meeting.
“The letter endorses the council’s position on much of the additional evidence submitted by us after the hearings,” he said.
“While further work is to be done, those outstanding items are as anticipated.
“It’s an important signal that the inspectors are happy for us to keep working towards those next steps.
“We therefore need to agree to modify the plan and consult on these.
“I know there are many diverse opinions on our plan and legitimate worries around development,” he added.
“But the benefits of having an adopted plan far outweigh concerns around elements of strategy.”
The extra Local Plan hearings in December covered several specific sites in the plan. In their letter, the inspectors focused on a mix of strategic policies and consequences of potential development.
“The route of the proposed M1/A6 link road has now been established following planning permission,” they said.
“Having considered the additional information provided, we consider the link road would represent a clearly defined, long-term and defensible boundary to the remaining Green Belt in this location.
“It would be an easily recognisable northern boundary to Luton.
“To ensure that policy SA1 is justified and effective, we agree with CBC the boundary of the site should follow the route of the link road.”
Housing which could be accommodated nearby would drop from around 4,000 to roughly 3,600, explained the letter.
“In principle, we’re now satisfied there’s sufficient information to justify the Sundon Rail Freight Interchange allocation,” added the inspectors, having not been convinced “this was the only realistic location” initially.
On Holme Farm at Biggleswade, issues remain around “the potential to create a linear form of commercial development extending a significant distance to the south of the town“, next to the A1.
“We invite CBC to suggest for our consideration how policy SE3 could be modified so the harm identified would be avoided and the allocation justified.”
To prevent Arlesey and Fairfield merging, the inspectors suggested “no development must take place beyond the National Grid gas pipeline running through the (East of Arlesey) site, other than for sports, recreation, leisure or agricultural uses“.
The inspectors raised concerns about the Marston Gate expansion regarding “the topography of the site, its prominence and the size and type of development proposed”, saying “it would have a significant visual impact“.
This would include “large-scale, strategic warehouse buildings” across the area.
The council is invited to say “how the plan could be modified to minimise such harm“.
No demand exists for up to 210 acres of specialist high-technology, science and research and development uses at RAF Henlow, as CBC originally proposed, according to the inspectors.
“It’s highly likely that RAF Henlow will be ready to redevelop for non-military uses during the plan period, as it’s due to be vacated by 2023,” the letter said.
No deadline has been set for CBC’s response because of the pandemic.