Marston Valley is a new housing project in Bedfordshire

Marston Valley programme of engagement

O&H Properties, the developer behind the Marston Valley project, is running a programme of engagement to understand and seek local residents’ ideas and suggestions for developing a series of new villages within Marston Vale over the next 20 years.

Speaking at the first engagement exhibition in Marston Moretaine, Head of Planning for O&H Properties, Pippa Cheetham, said:

“It [the Marston Valley Project] is a series of new communities which is responding to Central Beds Local Plan allocation.

“What it will deliver is approximately 5,000 new homes, a business park, seven new schools, all the community facilities you would expect from a series of new communities.”

The village-based communities will also extend the woodland in the Forest of Marston Vale and provide a waterway link connecting Brogborough and Stewartby Lakes.

“It is a scheme which we can build out within 20-25 years.”

This seems an extremely long time to build 5,000 new homes, wouldn’t it cause less disruption if it was completed sooner?

Pippa said:

“That’s pretty quick, to be honest. If you take the Wixhams, that’s been built out since 2007/8, it’s not built anything like half of that in ten years.”

“There’s no reason we couldn’t build it quicker, but we’re taking a conservative estimate, because that’s what we know we can deliver using traditional house building methods.”

Marston Valley map with provisional place-names. Credit: O&H Properties Ltd

A conversation or just a ‘show and tell’?

There is some local objection to the size of this plan, there are local residents that feel that this series of engagement exhibitions is more of a ‘show and tell’ than a genuine connection with the existing communities. Is O&H really trying to establish a meaningful connection, or is it just engaging with the ‘enemy’ because it has to tick a box?

“I’m not suggesting that there wouldn’t be people that are against what we’re doing, but we might find people who are supportive.

“The whole purpose of this engagement is really the start of a conversation.”

This engagement follows on from the community consultation carried out by Central Bedfordshire Council with its Local Plan.

“We felt that it was important to illustrate how that could look rather than just a big red line around an area of land.

“I do see this as a conversation rather than a confrontation with the enemy.”

Is this a loss of Green Belt land?

O&H say that no Green Belt land is affected, and also the proposed development site does not fall within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, or a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Housing will make up approximately 25% of the 566 hectares (1,399 acres) site. This will be at a medium density of 35 dwellings per hectare on average, roughly the same as the built-up areas of the existing villages nearby.

As a guide, the Marston Park development is around 38 dwellings per hectare.

O&H says that this average allows for a range of densities. One of the new villages (Lower Millbrook) could be lower density with larger homes, while other areas could have small flat schemes or retirement homes which are at a higher density.

Members of the Lidlington Action Group are concerned that their small village will just merge into the new ones as there will not be a clear buffer zone defining the village boundary.

O&H has confirmed its priority to provide buffers between new and existing villages. But are the existing properties adjacent to the proposed sites going to have a clear buffer next to them?

“The honest answer is that some will, and some won’t.

“The main villages will have an area around them of green space. This ranges from 350 to about 500 metres.

“‘Ends’ that make up Lidlington will not have the same buffers around them. They will be more incorporated into the new development.”

O&H say that over 55% (more than 300 hectares of the site) will be green open space, allotments, orchards, nature areas, lakes and water.

Will the medial facilities be built?

As residents in Marston and Cranfield know, expansion doesn’t always mean that the extra facilities, such as a medical centre are provided in time, if at all.

Will the Marston Valley project provide the medical facilities?

” It is a really difficult issue. As developers we can only go so far. We are expecting to provide the land, but we will also provide finances.

“We’re going to have to work with the local authority and the NHS to make sure that happens.

” We have been successful in this elsewhere, but it just takes time to get it going.”

Pippa said that one of the first houses built in a Milton Keynes development was used as a GP until the actual surgery was built.

More social housing is needed in this area, does O&H guarantee there will be a 30 percent allocation to social housing?

“There is no reason why not. It is what we have done on other schemes. Unless there are extenuating circumstances we deliver policy compliant affordable housing.

“The thing that we don’t control is where there is grant funding available and what the local authority wants.”

On one development the local authority decided that it wanted less affordable housing as they wanted a secondary school instead.

“It is a matter for the Section 106 negotiations.”

Hamlets such as Thrupp End may become surrounded by new houses

A right to a view?

Some locals have chosen this area as a place to spend their retirement, attracted by the small villages and the views from their homes. One Lidlington villager wondered how O&H staff can sleep at night.

Pippa said:

“I sleep fine at night. What I would say is there is huge housing need, not just in this area, but nationally.

“I don’t think that you can buy into any area in this country anymore and not expect there to be housing built, because there is a huge housing need.

“If it is retirement plans that are being upset then I don’t apologise for that, because if you’re 20 or 30 you want a house, you want a home.

“And I think that everybody has the right to have a home.”

Find out more

The remaining exhibitions are taking place at:

For those who can’t make the exhibitions, comments can be made via the Marston Valley website.

The opportunity to comment on the Marston Valley plans will run until Friday 2 March. There will be ongoing engagement with the local community continuing over the longer term.