Central Bedfordshire Council’s Local Plan sets out how the council will deliver housing over the next 20 years
Councillor James Jamieson, Leader of Central Bedfordshire Council (CBC), says that without a Local Plan new developments would be built on an ad-hoc basis. He believes that a Local Plan is the best way for the council to meet the government’s target of 40,000 new homes in Central Beds.
“The Local Plan looks at ‘where are the best places for houses to be built in Central Bedfordshire?’
“What infrastructure does it need, such as parks, schools, doctors?
“All the things that make the area a nice place to live.”
The Local Plan also decides where the employment sites should go, including shops and retail. It also includes giving something back to existing residents.
“I do not think that leaving this to random chance is the right way for a responsible council to do it.”
Were the Local Plan sites chosen by political alignments?
Residents in the areas chosen for development are unhappy and are campaigning against the plan. Some are talking about how they will be voting at the council elections in 2018. As there is such a large majority for the ruling party in the council, was politics involved in choosing the sites? Was it decided that losing a few councillors here and there was a price worth paying? Cllr Jamieson denied this, he said:
“It [the plan] is spread about – if you speak to any affected individuals they feel that they are getting the worse of it.
“We looked at the criteria and politics took a back seat. There was no political involvement.”
Click on the play button to hear to the full interview with Cllr Jamieson, where he also talks about why he became a councillor
Will Greater Milton Keynes spread into Central Bedfordshire?
Central Bedfordshire isn’t the only council looking expanding homes and infrastructure. Milton Keynes Council is looking to build a new road bridge over the M1. If approved, it will release the expansion of ‘East Milton Keynes’ to the east of the motorway. This could improve links between Cranfield University & Airport and Milton Keynes.
Why didn’t CBC’s Local Plan include the likely opportunities to develop suitable sites to the west of Cranfield that would benefit from this expansion? These could be more sustainable than the proposed Marston Valley development?
Cllr Jamieson said one of CBC’s key issues was to avoid coalescence, that the council did not want Central Bedfordshire to become part of Greater Milton Keynes.
“That’s why it’s very important to us to have a distinct countryside gap between Milton Keynes and the rest of Central Bedfordshire.”
A local plan does not have a plan b
Saint Albans District Council had its Local Plan rejected in 2017 after the inspector said that it hadn’t met its duty to cooperate with other council.
Before CBC’s vote to forward the Local Plan to the inspector, Cllr Nigel Young, CBC’s regeneration portfolio holder, said that Luton Borough Council had not confirmed that the duty to co-operate requirements had been met.
The lack of a duty to cooperate was one of the items in an eight-page letter sent to the council by the inspector. Is the council concerned that this could delay or scupper the Plan?
Cllr Jamieson said:
“We have bent over backwards to work with Luton.
“All of the councils we have worked with, apart from Luton, agree that we have met our duty to cooperate.”
CBC has worked hard to ensure that the Local Plan will be accepted, but there is never a guarantee that an inspector will approve it. As there is always a risk that a plan could be rejected, does CBC have a Plan B?
“There is no Plan B to a Local Plan. You either get the plan through, or you don’t.
“What we have done to convince the inspector that we have some options is that we have identified some sites for future growth.”
Such as Tempsford, where CBC believes that there is potential for significant growth. It is not in the plan as it needs major infrastructure improvements that are not guaranteed. The Local Plan can not be based on what might happen.
“So, there are some elements of the Local Plan that gives us a little wriggle room.”
The Local Plan Hearing Sessions are expected to be held in October/November and December/January. The exact dates and venues will be posted on the council’s website. Residents can also sign up to email alerts to keep up to date on this and other council business.