Lidlington Action Group calls for Central Bedfordshire Council to reduce the size of Marston Valley

Lidlington Action Group says a smaller development would be more sustainable

The Lidlington Action Group (LAG) was represented at Central Bedfordshire Council’s (CBC) January meeting (17 January 2019).

LAG is opposed to the 5,000 new homes that the Marston Valley development would bring to the village. The group isn’t calling for the whole scheme to be scrapped, only to be reduced in size.

It proposes that a smaller development of 1,800 houses would protect the identity of existing villages in the area and would be more sustainable.

Mr Rob Booth, from LAG, reminded the council about a question posed at the previous meeting by John Baker, a community campaigner from Aspley Guise.

Mr Booth said that Mr Baker wanted to know if it would make more sense to develop sites west of Cranfield rather than in Marston Vale. This suggestion referenced the Milton Keynes plan which includes substantial development to the east of the M1. Mr Booth said:

“In his response [to this suggestion], Cllr Young referred to the “beautiful countryside” around Moulsoe which he said, “would not be my first choice as a location for a significant number of houses”.

“But Marston Vale is in the heart of a nationally designated Community Forest delivering economic, social and environmental benefits worth £13m a year”.

Local plan’s policy is for 30% tree cover

In his response to Mr Booth, Cllr Nigel Young, CBC executive member for Regeneration said:

“Whether I like Moulsoe or whether I like the Marston Vale better, it is not appropriate to consider landscape in isolation as all elements of the national policy should be considered when considering development proposals.

“It is clear that the development of the Marston Valley site rather than preventing the enhancement of the Forest of Marston Vale, it is, in fact, providing the opportunity to deliver the policy of 30% tree cover that is set out in the local plan

“It is therefore compliant with the national planning policy which requires us to enhance valued landscapes. Furthermore, the Forest of Marston Vale Trust does not object to development and are in fact supportive of it”

Following a shout from the public, Cllr Young said that he would check this information and write to Mr Booth if the statement about the Trust was incorrect.

When asked by the Chronicle if he had written to Mr Booth, Cllr Young said:

“While it is the Trust’s policy to be neutral on individual planning applications that do not directly conflict with the aims of the Forest of Marston Vale they are supportive of the green infrastructure being proposed as part of the development, including the 30% tree coverage.

“We are continuing to have positive discussions with the developer and the Trust about the proposals for the development.”

Central Bedfordshire Council's Local Plan criticised again by members of the public

The development “falls short of what was expected”

Nick Webb, chief executive, Forest of Marston Vale agreed that the Trust’s policy is to be neutral on planning issues as it is not an expert on planning. He said:

“It is the role of both national government and local authority level to determine planning applications.

“However as a Government designated Community Forest and with the backing of both Central Bedfordshire and Bedford Borough, any planned development should make a contribution to the creation of the Forest of Marston Vale as part of their development plans within the forest footprint (61sq miles).

“Therefore whilst we did appreciate the effort that the developers had put into green space and forest elements within Marston Valley, we felt it did fall short of what should be expected, so our response to the planning application was worded accordingly.”

Extension to the determination period for Marston Valley

The statutory timeframe for determining the application has passed. CBC has agreed with O&H Properties, the Marston Valley developers, to allow an extension of time for the determination period until the end of June 2019.

This would allow for the council and O&H Properties to continue to consider the consultation responses received so far from statutory consultees, parish councils and residents.

Members of the public opposed to any aspect of CBC’s Local Plan will get their chance to voice their feelings at the public stage of the plan’s examination.

Following another request for additional information by the planning inspector, this stage has been delayed again. It is now expected to be heard in May 2019.