Central Bedfordshire Council: Local Plan progress Image: ceebeestock AdobeStock_207781879

A long-awaited Local Plan for Central Bedfordshire could be back on track, after several setbacks since it was first drafted.

Controversy has surrounded aspects of the document since Central Bedfordshire Council submitted it for examination in April 2018.

But the local authority’s fears it might have to start the whole procedure again are receding, after two weeks of extra Local Plan sessions in December.

There was no call for any further hearings,” Conservative Caddington councillor Kevin Collins told a CBC sustainable communities overview and scrutiny committee meeting.

I think overall the process ran pretty well and most topics got a fairly good airing,” he said.

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

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

That’s an indication that they’re looking at things from their side, as well.

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,” he added.

I say hopefully because I really don’t want to tempt fate by taking that for granted.

The general feeling is we’re working towards something that will be found acceptable rather than having to start again.

As regards timescale for that letter, it gets sent to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government before it gets sent to us, so we cannot put an exact date on it.

But the expectation is weeks, rather than months or longer, that kind of time frame.”

Since last month’s hearings a statement of common ground has been reached between CBC and the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) over RAF Henlow.

The DIO is the estate expert for defence supporting the armed forces in planning.

It expects RAF Henlow to be vacated by 2023 with phasing towards this already underway.

Homes England is expected to oversee housing development on part of the site, which was listed for mixed use, specialist employment in CBC’s original draft Local Plan.

Independent Toddington councillor Mary Walsh asked: “There’s due to be a consultation period on the inspection and I wondered if we’ve got any idea when that will be?”

Councillor Collins, who’s the executive member for regeneration and planning, replied: “We need sight of the letter before we understand what the next steps are.

The letter will likely outline potential changes and we, as a council, have to decide whether or not we’re happy with those changes.

Depending precisely on what’s proposed, it’s highly likely a consultation period will be part of that.

But we don’t know exactly when we’ll be getting the letter. We then have to digest its contents before we organise the consultation period.

It’s premature to put a date on that at this stage.”

The document sets out future strategic policies in Central Bedfordshire.

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