Marston Valley planning application submitted Image: O&H Properties Ltd

Marston Valley plan is for 5,000 new homes

An outline planning application for Marston Valley has been submitted to Central Bedfordshire Council. O&H Properties Ltd’s plan is for a series of new linked villages in Marston Vale.

Located in the Oxford to Cambridge arc, the Marston Valley development would bring new infrastructure, community facilities and up to 5,000 homes, built over a 20-year period.

Pippa Cheetham, head of planning at O&H, said:

“O&H is excited to be submitting this application, which represents a long period of local engagement and will allow the company to demonstrate its commitment to building the high-quality places sought by central government, community leaders and local people alike.”

Not just new homes

O&H claims that this Marston Valley development will deliver jobs, new schools, leisure facilities, better public transport and health facilities to the area. The plan also includes a new waterway park connecting the existing lakes. This would be the first new English waterway in over 100 years.

Approximately 45% of the 566 hectare site will be for built development. The remainder (more than 300 hectares) will be green open space, allotments, orchards, nature areas, lakes and water. No Green Belt land is will be built on.

Locals were consulted before developers submitted their planning application

More than 20% of households in the area attended the engagement exhibitions and meetings held over February and March.

Pippa Cheetham, O&H, said:

“The engagement from local residents was very helpful and while some are opposed to development, we have benefitted from many others’ openness and suggestions as to how the Marston Valley proposal can work for them.”

The adjustments to the original plan includes surrounding Lidlington by a green buffer. O&H say that this green infrastructure and woodland planting will protect the village’s existing character, minimising the risk of coalescence with the new development.

Rob Booth, chair of the Lidlington Action Group (LAG), said:

“These [changes] don’t address the issues we raised with them. The Council’s own assessment showed that building at this scale on this site would merge existing villages with the new development. The latest plans show this will remain the case – there will be no meaningful separation between Lidlington, Marston and the new settlement.”

Traffic issues

LAG also raised concerns the plan has not fully addressed the resulting traffic. Robert Booth said:

“There will still be no direct access from this site to the main roads (the A421 and A507) which will lead to unmanageable congestion on local roads and air pollution.”

O&H says that the Marston Valley new villages will be accessed from the C94 (the old A421). This will be re-designed in key places to help traffic flow better and more safely.

The design of the street network in the new villages will also seek to encourage traffic onto the C94 rather than along other local routes. The planners say that the outline planning proposals have been designed to avoid ‘rat-running’ through neighbouring villages and communities. Transport links will be refined throughout the planning and consultation process.

Robert Booth said:

“Directing traffic out via C94 would take traffic either to congested Junction 13 (running at 110 – 130% now according to Highways England) or back through Marston.

“There will be no access to A421 or A507. Traffic wanting A507 or Flitwick (for trains to London) will inevitably go via local roads through Lidlington or Millbrook.

“Sat Nav takes you where you want to go not where the developer would like you to go!”

The proposed development also includes employment land for offices and light industrial uses, as well as retail facilities. O&H say that this will support local employment and help reduce out-commuting.

O&H is also intending to provide two new bus routes to connect to Bedford, Ridgmont, Milton Keynes, Cranfield and Flitwick station.

Will Marston Valley mean a return to queuing traffic in Brogborough?

Will Marston Valley mean a return to queuing traffic in Brogborough?

Affordable housing

Subject to viability and demand, Marston Valley to deliver a variety of homes, including starter homes, family homes, homes for older people and self-build plots. The current planning application sets out a proposal for 30% affordable housing in line with the current Local Plan policy. These affordable homes could be family homes, starter homes or other housing types.

If Marston Valley gets outline planning permission, compliance with the council’s Local Plan policy on affordable housing will become a condition of that planning permission. O&H will be ensuring that this policy is met by the house-builders who come to Marston Valley, and the council will also be scrutinising its delivery.

Pippa Cheetham said:

“Our vision is to create an exceptional living environment in the Marston Vale where people will be proud to live and work, and will want to visit.

“Marston Valley is about taking a strategic, long-term approach to planning for the wider needs of the area, not just building houses.

“Delivering Marston Valley as a comprehensive development is crucial to secure significant investment in infrastructure. Smaller scale or piecemeal development does not provide the same level of coordinated infrastructure.”

The planning application is available for viewing

The planning application will now be reviewed by planning officers at Central Bedfordshire Council. A formal consultation will be held until 12 July 2018.

Robert Booth said:

“These plans also reveal that the developer cannot – or does not intend to – meet the requirements set out in the Council’s Local Plan for this site. These include a higher density of housing, less employment land, less tree cover and no guarantees on affordable housing or a cycleway to Ridgmont Station (because the planned new train services will not stop at Lidlington). That is disappointing but not surprising.

“The Council could make better choices about which sites to develop and at what scale. Building 5,000 houses in Lidlington doesn’t make any sense. It would reverse 25 years of efforts to recover the landscape of the Marston Vale from decades of industrial scarring.

“It would create a new town bigger than Ampthill right in the middle of the Forest of Marston Vale. Existing villages like ours would lose their identity. And the whole area will be blighted by traffic congestion and air pollution. Important wildlife habitats would be lost. That could all be avoided if they build at a reduced scale in Lidlington and made better use of other more suitable sites where the resulting traffic could be better managed.”

To see further details of the Marston Valley proposals, go to: www.marstonvalley.co.uk

To comment on the planning application, go to www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/planning/view-comment/applications.aspx

The application reference number is: CB/18/01969/OUT