CPRE claims council leaders are avoiding giving details of new strategies to their electorate image by bannafarsai AdobeStock_165321421 copy

Council leader finds CPRE claim on Local Industrial Strategy “baffling”

Campaign to Protection Rural England (CPRE) Bedfordshire has claimed that the Government and SEMLEP have a policy of quietly releasing key documents and are avoiding any public consultation. This, it claims, is adding to the “already massive democratic deficit” experienced by the people of Bedfordshire and the SEMLEP/Ox-Cam area.

CPRE said that the SEMLEP Local Industrial Strategy (LIS) is calling for a continued massive and environmentally unsustainable growth in population across the SEMLEP area which includes Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, Milton Keynes and the Aylesbury Vale.

It called the LIS “ill–conceived” and added that the LIS will influence the Local Plans of all the local authorities in Bedfordshire without any public consultation and without an environmental assessment.

It went on to claim that the LIS will lead to further massive house building across Bedfordshire and the SEMLEP area, not to satisfy the needs of local people, but to encourage a huge population movement into the area from elsewhere in the UK.

Lois Wright, manager of CPRE Bedfordshire said:

“The SEMLEP LIS was quietly slipped out by means of a joint Government and SEMLEP statement on 19 July, about 5 weeks ago, just as the summer holidays began.

“We welcome a strategy that plans for a strong, healthy economy for Bedfordshire and the SEMLEP area however, this Local Industrial Strategy demonstrates how back-to-front our planning system is.

“The starting point for economic growth should be the natural growth in the population of Bedfordshire and the SEMLEP area for which employment might be needed, with the focus then on identifying the right jobs in the right places in order to reduce unsustainable commuting. This LIS is the reverse of this process – it seeks to maximise jobs and then look to see what might be needed to support them, including the inevitable increase in long distance commuting and massive increase in population.”

The CPRE Bedfordshire statement went on to say that the Mayor of Bedford, Dave Hodgson and Councillor James Jamieson, the leader of Central Bedfordshire Council are also avoiding giving details of these new Strategies to their electorate despite being members of SEMLEP and involved in the production of the LIS.

The leader of Central Bedfordshire Council said that he finds the claims made by CPRE “baffling and strange”.

Cllr Jamieson said:

“I along with fellow councillor representatives insisted that all SEMLEP meeting agendas, reports and minutes must be publicly available to all, so the bizarre claim that I am trying to cover up its work is baffling and strange. In the case of the Local Industrial Strategy, the Government has insisted that all areas produce such a strategy.

“The Government is imposing minimum housing targets for this area, while more housing is needed nationally to make homes affordable, I have been consistently lobbying that the distribution should be fair and that Central Bedfordshire’s targets are too high, and that infrastructure needs to be delivered first and local jobs. This strategy is about delivering good jobs and strong infrastructure which current and future generations need and deserve.”

Bedford Borough Mayor Dave Hodgson said:

“I was the first to insist that all SEMLEP meeting agendas, reports and minutes must be publicly available to all, so the bizarre claim that I am trying to cover up its work is baffling and strange. Indeed, I made SEMLEP and other regional bodies the focus of my presentation to the last Full Council meeting.

“In the case of the Local Industrial Strategy, the Government has insisted that all areas produce such a strategy. The Government is imposing minimum housing targets for this area, which I have been very vocal about, and this strategy is about delivering good jobs and strong infrastructure which current and future generations need and deserve.”

The map shows our area’s key clusters, major businesses and assets operating in the South East Midland’s Showcase Sectors Image: SEMLEP

“Bedfordshire is the area’s warehousing capital”

The CPRE said that the LIS is focussed on the development of the logistics/warehousing sector across the SEMLEP region. It added that Bedfordshire is already becoming the “warehousing capital” of the area with massive new warehouses eating up open green spaces, encouraging a huge increase in air polluting HGV’s.

The pressure group claims that these warehouses are environmental disasters with very few quality jobs being created compared to the massive amount of open countryside destroyed.

In a statement to the Cranfield and Marston Vale Chronicle, SEMLEP said that the LIS does not propose an increase in warehousing space, and neither does it dictate where any additional warehousing should be allocated. Also, that it makes a clear commitment to improve the productivity in the logistics sector using innovative freight technologies.

SEMLEP also said that the LIS is in favour of a balanced pipeline of commercial premises and that warehouses that are developed are done so in a manner which is sensitive to the environment and is compatible with innovative technologies.

Hilary Chipping, SEMLEP chief executive, said:

“The Local Industrial Strategy is the plan to realise innovation, further improve connectivity and create a balanced environment that provides opportunity for our businesses and enhances our vibrant, sustainable communities.

“It looks at the success and strengths of the area and identifies priorities and interventions to realise innovation and further improve connectivity.

“The strategy recognises the environmental challenges ahead and advocates that the area builds on existing expertise in the clean growth field to make a positive impact on our environment and local people.”

SEMLEP added that the LIS does not set any housing targets. Housing numbers will continue to be determined through the local planning process.

Visit CPRE Bedfordshire for more information on its LIS statement.

SEMELP has more information on the LIS here.