Local Plan

Shaping Central Bedfordshire consultation

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This consultation closed 1 November, 2016.

The purpose of this consultation was to help shape "big picture" options for growth which will then be set out in the initial draft of the Local Plan, to be published at the end of 2016.

There will be many more opportunities to give us your views and get involved. In addition to looking at the area as a whole, we are running a series of workshops to help create community plans. These will be used to identify the key issues in each local area and to support the plan.

Full details of further consultation events are available on the news and consultations page.

Background

Central Bedfordshire is a complex area to plan for as we are closely linked with Milton Keynes, Luton, Bedford and Stevenage, and also share job and housing markets. All councils must discuss issues that cross their boundaries (the “Duty to Cooperate” requirement) and consider carefully whether they need to plan for new homes which cannot be provided by our neighbouring authorities.

Evidence

The future plan will be informed by a range of information and a large number of studies are already underway to update our evidence base on topics such as infrastructure, economic development, the need for new homes and environmental issues. We will publish all of these alongside the Draft Local Plan.

The Local Plan needs to conform to national planning policy including the “presumption in favour of sustainable development”.

The plan will respond to sustainability factors and how these relate to the area. It will include a preferred strategy for growth, infrastructure and transport considerations, broad locations for new homes and jobs and policies on types of housing, design and environmental enhancement and protection.

Housing need

Our estimate of the need for new homes is based on the Census estimates of population and household growth, adjusted for local factors over the 2015-35 period in addition we have made an allowance for unmet need to cover any identified adjoining areas less the number of homes planned which already have planning permission or have been built. In total we currently estimate the need to find sites for around 20,000 new homes. As we develop the Local Plan, we will be able to be more definite about this figure.

Which land already has planning permission?

We have produced a map showing where housing has been developed and planning permissions have been granted (PDF 9.7MB) between 2011 and 2015. This new housing will be taken into account when we carry out the site selection process.

Green belt land and other protected landscapes and nature conservation

Protecting green belt and landscape and nature conservation designations will remain extremely important to us and in accordance with government policy any proposed development will have to be fully justified. However some rolling back of the green belt will need to be considered as an option in the areas around Dunstable/Houghton Regis and Luton. We may consider designating green belt in other areas where it might be required.

Potential for environmental enhancements

Quality of the environment is a key reason that people want to live and work in Central Bedfordshire and improving and enhancing environmental quality is a key objective for us, which the Local Plan will contribute to. At a strategic scale, the opportunities include improving the landscapes and habitats in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), improving the networks of habitats in the Greensand Ridge Nature Improvement Area (NIA), increasing woodland cover to 30% in the Forest of Marston Vale, to use trees and woodlands to repair the landscape; regenerate the environment; and supporting the Bedford and Milton Keynes canal project. Money from development will be able to help fund new projects.

What are new settlements?

New settlements/communities are villages or urban extensions of usually around 3,000 or more homes that are capable of supporting a range of local services and facilities. They allow new development to be built at a greater concentration meaning that they are more likely to be sustainable or ‘walkable’ settlements. Smaller new settlements could start at around 1500 new homes, but these would probably have to be closely linked to an existing settlement.

Approaches to growth

To help prepare the first draft of the Local Plan, we have based our approach on key factors which underpin sustainable development such as proximity to good transport links and services. We have then used these to identify four areas in Central Bedfordshire which reflect the character of our towns, villages and countryside, existing and planned transport corridors, and areas of green belt designation. This is to help us to assess in broad terms growth potential for development of homes, economic opportunities and the scope to invest in local services and amenities. In smaller settlements, an important consideration will be what scale of growth can realistically be accommodated.

Guide to levels of growth

  • small scale growth <50 homes
  • medium scale growth 50-500 homes
  • large scale growth 500-1500 homes
  • strategic/new settlement scale growth 1500+ homes

Growth areas map

Area A - South and West/ M1 Corridor

Overall: Potential for all levels of growth including strategic scale growth adjoining urban areas, where Green Belt release can be justified.

This area is constrained by the Green Belt and Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. However, major sites to the north of Houghton Regis are already under development or have planning permission while significant growth is underway at Leighton Buzzard.

Growth potential: Small villages in the Green Belt generally have limited capacity to grow but there is some potential for medium scale growth along the major transport corridor following the M1, A5 and the railway (Midland Main Line), or large scale growth for sites immediately adjacent to Luton that could be linked to the Luton- Dunstable Busway. The lack of new sites within the urban areas of Luton and Dunstable mean that significant further growth in Central Bedfordshire is likely to be required. However any further development in the Green Belt will need to be thoroughly justified to meet national planning policy.

Environment: The Chilterns AONB and Greensand Ridge Nature Improvement Area (NIA), with their valued habitats and landscapes are existing environmental assets. Opportunities for new environmental projects include creating a long distance cycleway along the Greensand Ridge, and new Country Parks for Ampthill and Flitwick, and the Barton-le-Clay area.

Area B - East/A1 Corridor

Overall: Potential for all levels of growth, including new settlements, if appropriate supporting infrastructure is provided.

The broad corridor running south-north from Arlesey to the north of Sandy is well served in transport terms with the A1 and East Coast railway, both of which have potential for significant upgrades.

Growth potential: New development will need to provide for jobs growth in order to try and reduce out commuting and to generate investment to benefit town centres and improve local services. At Sandy in particular, there is potential to benefit from the East West Rail proposals and to attract business and housing growth along the Oxford to Cambridge corridor. This area has the potential to accommodate major growth providing it can be planned sustainably and generates clear benefits for existing communities.

Environment: The Greensand Ridge and Ivel Valley and their valued habitats are existing environmental assets. There are also opportunities for new environmental projects, including a new Country Park for Arlesey and Stotfold, a long distance ‘Great North Cycleway’, and access and open space networks around Biggleswade, Sandy, and the Arlesey, Stotfold and Fairfield areas.

Area C - East/West Corridor

Overall: Limited potential small scale growth for existing settlements. Potential for medium up to strategic scale growth including new settlements subject to investment in infrastructure and viability of sites at this scale.

The north of Central Bedfordshire is an important economic area with advanced research and development at Cranfield Technology Park and Millbrook Proving Ground and close links with Milton Keynes. The area is well connected with the improved A421, and the M1, and the planned section upgrade for East West Rail between Oxford and Bedford

Growth potential: With the right infrastructure investment, this area may be able to accommodate significant growth, potentially in the form of new settlements but the timing and commitment of further transport investment will be crucial. Many of the smaller settlements have already grown significantly over the past few years.

Environment: Much of the landscape has been restored and the Forest of Marston Vale is an important asset. Extending the Forest of Marston Vale and the potential Bedford to Milton Keynes canal are strategic scale environmental projects in this area.

Area D - Central Section

Overall: Potential for limited small to medium scale growth.

The central part of Central Bedfordshire is characterised by market towns and villages linked by rural roads and the potential to upgrade infrastructure such as roads is likely to be limited.

Growth potential: Any growth is likely to be of a small to medium scale and will be focused around settlements which have good services and suitable sites.

Environment: The area includes parts of the Greensand Ridge NIA with its valued habitat networks. There is the opportunity for creating new environmental projects, such as a long distance cycleway along the Greensand Ridge.

What happens next?

We are asking for feedback on these growth options early on in the plan-making process to help inform our thinking. You will have another opportunity to have your say on the growth options in 2017 when we publish the Draft Local Plan.

Whilst we are consulting on these growth options we are also carrying out a number of studies to gather evidence which, combined with the feedback from this consultation, will be taken forward into the Draft Local Plan.

Only after this draft Local Plan consultation will any decisions be made about broad options for growth.

If you have specific queries, please contact us by emailing us at localplan@centralbedfordshire.gov.uk or phone 0300 300 8307.

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