Planning Inspector gives feedback on Central Bedfordshire's draft Local Plan Image: ceebeestock AdobeStock_207781879

Junction 13 requires further investigation

Following a public examination of Central Bedfordshire Council‘s (CBC) draft Local Plan this summer, The Planning Inspectorate has provided formal feedback to the council.

CBC received the feedback on 30th September 2019, but delayed publication until 14 October 2019 while it sought to resolve a number of legal issues regarding the content and process being followed.

The Council said that correspondence from third parties referred to by the inspectors which, ‘unusually’, had not been sent to CBC as the Local Planning Authority and the promoter of the Local Plan.

The focused letter raised a number of issues for the Council to respond to. In particular, clarifying the content of some of the policies for strategic sites and issues around the current Sustainability Appraisal (SA).

The Council’s website says that no issues were raised in relation to a number of key points; including the overall housing and employment targets, Duty to Co-operate, the plan’s retail allocations, the plan’s detailed policies and many of the housing and employment allocations proposed.

The inspector’s have set out their “initial concerns”

Councillor Kevin Collins, executive member for Regeneration and Planning, said:

“It’s usual practice for the Inspectors’ to suggest modifications to draft plans and because we got a steer during the hearings on the issues that needed to be addressed, we’ve already begun work on these”.

“We welcome the feedback and are pressing ahead with purpose and pace. Delivery of our Local Plan is one of our highest priorities because it will serve to protect the community against speculative development and ensure that we can build communities with the supporting jobs, infrastructures and services that make a Central Bedfordshire a great place to live.”

The Council said that none of the work carried out since the Hearings needed to be amended due to the additional information.

Unlike some of the proposed sites for new homes, such as land in Barton-le-Clay, the 5,000 new homes planned for Marston Valley were not mentioned in any detail. Other than in the inspectors’ concerns over the deliverability and effectiveness of necessary mitigation to traffic congestion at Junction 13 of the M1. The original planning inspector also raised concerns about this junction in 2018.

CBC and Highways England are carrying out additional modelling which is expected to be completed in the late Autumn. The results of this modelling will form a critical piece of evidence directly relating to the Marston Valley plan.

For the inspectors to reach a robust substantiated conclusion on the soundness of the plan they would need to consider the implications of the new evidence and test it during more examination hearing sessions.

The programme officer for the planning inspectors said that the formal feedback does not mean that anything has been found sound or unsound. He added that the inspector’s have set out their initial concerns and have essentially requested the Council’s views on a number of matters.

CBC expects to complete the necessary work to answer all the inspectors’ concerns by April 2020. Once the Inspectors have received this response they will consider their position further and then decide ‘what happens next’ in terms of the Examination process.