Marston Valley planning application comes before the Local Plan is approved

Land developers O&H has submitted a planning application to build 5,000 new homes in Marston Vale. They are to be built between Lidlington, Marston Moretaine and Brogborough. The location has been allocated as a strategic site for development in Central Bedfordshire Council’s (CBC) Local Plan.

The planning application will determined under a separate legislative process to the Local Plan.

A spokesperson for CBC said:

“There is nothing to stop developers putting forward planning applications for developments, even if the Local Plan hasn’t been formally adopted yet. The council is required to assess the planning application following specific legal guidance, as we would any other planning application. We will, as part of this assessment, compare the planning application to the requirements for the development that we have set out in our Local Plan.

“There is no date for when we will make a decision on the planning application. We have extended the consultation timescale to allow people to have their say, and we are expecting a lot of responses. As it is a large and complex proposal, it will take some time to review it thoroughly.”

Marston Valley application submitted before the Local Plan is approved - is it too early Image:O&H

The Local Plan will be used to assess the application

The CBC spokesperson said that while reviewing any feedback from residents, it will assess how well the proposal meets the Local Plan requirements.

Planning expert, Rob Hindle, executive director at Rural Solutions said:

“It is good for the council to have the application coming forward as it demonstrates that this housing is more likely to be developed in the Plan.

“Both parties would expect that the new Local Plan would be given some weight, but it can’t be given full weight until it’s adopted.”

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

“This application is clearly premature if the Council sought to reach a determination on it that would clearly prejudice the Planning Inspector’s examination of the emerging Local Plan.

“Thousands of residents objected to that Plan, and a large number of unresolved issues will have to resolved by the Inspector’s examination. The Lidlington Action Group have a number of evidence-based ‘planning’ objections to the Marston Vale development.”

Is it pointless to protest?

As CBC will be using the Local Plan as a guide to asses O&H’s application, does it mean that it is pointless for residents opposed to the plan to campaign against it?

Rob Hindle said:

“It is not a straightforward as the council saying, ‘we put forward this proposal in our plan so therefore we will approve it’.”

Rosie Pearson, spokesperson for Campaign Against Urban Sprawl in Essex (CAUSE), also thinks that this isn’t a done deal. She said:

“I think that they [local action groups] are not wasting their time. If they gather evidence based on the national policy framework to show that this development [Marston Valley] is wrong, irrespective of what the developers and council think.

“The Inspector may agree with the action groups.”

CAUSE is campaigning against a 24,000 home new town proposed in Essex. The group had to pin all their hopes on the Inspector. Even at this stage they were told that they were wasting their time as the odds were stacked against them.

Last week (8 June 2018) the Planning Inspector for the Local Plan CAUSE has been campaigning against raised a number of problems with the Plan, such as it is unsound, and that the proposals have not been shown to have a reasonable prospect of being viably developed.

Rosie said:

“The Inspector does not go in with an open mind. His job is to say that the council know what they are doing so the council’s plan should be correct.

“Action groups have to really persevere. They have to lobby relentlessly and make as many friends as they can across other action groups, councillors, wildlife groups, anyone that they can think of.”

“They have to keep up the pressure in the local media.”

Rosie also suggests reminding councillors that there is an election next year, but keep the comments professional. She said:

“Stick to the facts, stick to evidence and don’t get personal. We had a lot of personal attacks from senior council people.

“By not getting into public slanging matches with them it just made them look stupid and helped to sway opinions against them.”

Local Plan for Lidlington Image:Central Bedfordshire Council

Objecting to the Local Plan – avoid focussing on the loss of green space

The Planning Inspector will hold public hearings as part of the examination process. It will be a chance for locals to share their objections with the Inspector.

Those speaking should not be focusing on the loss of green space or the end to the view from their garden.

Rob Hindle said:

“Be concise and to the point. You need reasons why you don’t want something to happen, not that you just don’t like the idea.”

He also advises that those speaking should professionalise their presentations to the hearing. It has to be easy for the Inspector to hear and to understand the objections. It is important that those speaking do not go off on a tangent. He said:

“They need to make their case on valid planning grounds as best as they can. They need to look at how well aligned the application is to the requirements set out in the Local Plan.

“If it is different, why is it different?

“Say ‘we don’t feel that putting all these new homes here is the best way of delivering what the plan wants to achieve because…’Try to relate the arguments back to the Plan.”

Outside help is available

The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) can help residents to put a professional objection campaign together. CPRE’s Planning Campaigner, Rebecca Pullinger said:

“CPRE has a website dedicated to help local people with all manner of planning issues, including information on how local people can lodge objections to unsuitable developments in their areas.

“It can be found at: https://www.planninghelp.cpre.org.uk/. We also have a CPRE Network spanning the length of the country with volunteers eager to respond to queries.

“You can find a list of your nearest local group here: https://www.cpre.org.uk/how-you-can-help/local-and-regional-groups.”

Lidlington Action Group flyer Image:LAG

More information

O&H has more information about Marston Valley on its website.

Residents can comment or object on O&H’s planning application by visiting the Central Bedfordshire Council’s website.

The spokesperson for Central Bedfordshire Council said:

“We encourage all local residents to have their say on the Marston Valley planning application during the consultation period.”

Comments are allowed until 19 July 2018.

Rob Booth (LAG) said:

“We have been encouraged by what CAUSE achieved and the rejection by the Planning Inspector of elements of Essex’s Local Plan. It does give us some hope of getting residents’ voices heard, making our planning arguments to an independent decision-maker, and giving our community some hope for its future.”

The Lidlington Action Group is holding a drop-in event to discuss this application and the Local Plan at the Lidlington Church Hall on Tuesday 26th June between 4 and 7 pm.