The Marston Valley development area which is mostly within the parish of Lidlington Image: Central Bedfordshire Council

Coalescence will be experienced “visually and physically”

Central Bedfordshire Council’s (CBC) Local Plan is currently at the public hearing stage of its examination. These hearings are to be held over five weeks between 21 May and 26 July 2019.

The Marston Valley development was discussed on Hearing Day 7 (13 June 2019).

This site was submitted for consideration through CBC’s ‘Call for Sites’ in April 2016. It is for approximately 5000 dwellings, up to 40 hectares of employment land and the associated infrastructure.

CBC says that is satisfied that this scheme can deliver a “comprehensive, strategic development that is sympathetic to the character of the Marston Vale“. Also, that it will also deliver the “necessary services and facilities to support both new and existing communities“.

It adds that it will have sufficient green infrastructure to ensure that appropriate separation will be achieved between the new development and existing settlements in the Marston Vale.

Those against the proposed development say that it is not possible for the proposal to have the appropriate separation.

Rob Booth, from the Lidlington Action Group, told the Inspector, Matthew Birkinshaw, that the site is on the floor of the Vale and that Lidlington rises up 90 m to the top of Greensand Ridge. He said:

“The site is visible from every road that goes to and from Lidlington, and from multiple points within the village.”

Mr Booth went on to say that the distance between the existing villages of Lidlington and Marston Moretaine is just 0.9 miles:

“So in practice you could drive from Lidlington through the new villages to Marston in less than a mile.

“Coalescence will be experienced visually, physically, and in terms of activity.

“This begs the question whether the scale of the allocation is supportable on this site or whether it should be reduced to something that indeed can protect the identity of existing settlements.”

Marston Valley scheme is “landscape led”

Mr Birkinshaw asked CBC if it was confident that separation between the villages, including a sense of separation from elevated areas, could be achieved. A CBC spokesperson said:

“The scheme is very much landscape led with the provision of the landscaping between the villages does help to break that up the area.

“This site is currently subject to an outline planning application which was submitted in May 2018.

“There has been some comprehensive and quite extensive master planning work which has demonstrated that these series of villages can be delivered and that separation can be provided between existing settlements and the new villagers.”

Lidlington Action Group said that this is an area where villages are separated by miles and not by landscaping. It also said that CBC seems to be relying on a submitted planning application to develop the issues in more detail:

“The contention is that the soundness of this plan is that the level of detail should be within the plan itself so the residents of the area know exactly what is proposed.

“The National Planning Policy Framework is quite clear. Planmakers and decision makers should have clarity about what is being put forward.

“We have an alternative approach, which we consider could be a minor modification to the plan, to allocate this number of Dwellings between Bedford and the M1, but not in this way.”

PCllr Jean Peall, from Lidlington Parish Council, said that if the plan goes ahead then the small village of Lidlington will be lost.

“It [the plan] will destroy a historical village, its heritage and its scenery.”

Lidlington Action Group spoke out against Central Bedfordshire Council's Local Plan at public hearing Image: Lidlington Action Group

The Examination Hearing Programme is to run over five weeks:

21-24 May 2019 – Week 1 hearing sessions

11-14 June 2019 – Week 2 hearing sessions

18-21 June 2019 – Week 3 hearing sessions

16-19 July 2019 – Week 4 hearing sessions

23-26 July 2019 – Week 5 hearing sessions

A date for the final ruling has not been set.

Visit the CBC website for more information on the Independent Examination of the Central Bedfordshire Local Plan.