Local Plan

Settlement separation

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How can we prevent settlements merging (coalescence)?

You told us that protecting the rural character of the area and the distinct identities of our villages and towns is important.

In the south of our area, the Green Belt provides some of this protection. The Green Belt prevents Luton/Dunstable/Houghton Regis, Leighton Buzzard, Ampthill and Flitwick from merging with other towns and limits unrestricted urban sprawl.

For some areas, outside of the Green Belt, which are under pressure from development (e.g. areas for growth around the A1 corridor and the Marston Vale) there is a need for specific protection. So, we have been looking at other policies we can include in the Local Plan to help with this.

The Local Plan defines the following areas as ‘Important Countryside Gaps’:

The council will protect these Important Countryside Gaps to help retain the separate identity and character of settlements.

The council will not grant permission for unallocated development that would promote the visual or physical merging (coalescence) of settlements.

What is Green Belt land?

Green Belts are areas around certain towns, cities and large built-up areas, where the aim is to prevent urban sprawl by keeping the land permanently undeveloped. Development is restricted in the Green Belt.

Land is not included in the Green Belts due to its landscape or ecological value.

Green Belt serves five purposes, it is designed to:

  • check the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas
  • prevent neighbouring towns merging into one another
  • safeguard the countryside from encroachment
  • preserve the setting and special character of historic towns
  • assist in urban regeneration, by encouraging the recycling of derelict and other urban land

You can read more about green belt on the government's website (link opens in new window).

Growth isn’t allowed in the Green Belt?

This isn’t strictly true. Development is restricted but not ruled out completely under national planning policy.

There are exceptions where development can occur in the Green Belt which include development for agriculture or forestry and limited infilling in villages.

The government tells us that Green Belt boundaries can be redrawn through Local Plans in ‘exceptional circumstances’. We need to build close to where the housing need is arising, which is in the Green Belt and where growth would be most sustainable. We believe this is strong enough reason to develop in the Green Belt.

Why is growth proposed in the Green Belt?

Almost half (40%) of Central Bedfordshire is Green Belt, this is the southern part of Central Bedfordshire. We need to provide homes close to where there is need which is across Central Bedfordshire including the south.

We have considered putting all of the growth in the north of Central Bedfordshire but our evidence has shown that services and infrastructure couldn’t support it. In addition, this wouldn’t fit with the character of Central Bedfordshire.

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