The Borough Conservative Councillors have responded to the draft Local Plan 2040 consultation. In their response they raise many concerns and have made the following recommendations including the need for genuine sustainability to be at its core.
- The Plan fails to meet the Council’s own sustainability targets
- The Plan does not meet the housing needs of Bedford residents
- The Plan entails unnecessary loss of grades 1 & 2 agricultural land
- The Plan fails to provide adequate strengthening of transport networks
- The Plan should do more to renew and repurpose the Town Centre
A consultation paper highlighting 4 “preferred” strategies was put to the public this summer. The Council’s own Sustainability Appraisal considers the potential environmental impacts of all proposals and states that urban growth is the most sustainable on virtually all criteria, with village related growth scoring least favourably. In all four options only 1,500 out of 12,500 homes were proposed for the urban area contrary to the assessment in the Sustainability Appraisal.
Cllr Stephen Moon, Conservative Local Plan spokesperson said:
‘In 2019 the Council declared a climate change emergency but these proposals fail to reflect that. Each of the preferred strategies involves major developments in the rural area, sometimes disguised as “travel corridors”, with little or no new infrastructure or local facilities; that means more cars on the road and more pollution. This is a lost opportunity and contrary to the Council’s own Sustainability Appraisal. A more innovative approach is needed- these proposals represent lazy, and irresponsible planning’
The Group response highlights that many rural communities understand the need for natural growth to meet local needs which, if properly taken into account, lessens the need for large estates on green field land. The continued commitment to neighbourhood planning is welcomed.
The Conservatives will support any attempts to allow more time for the Borough to prepare the new Local Plan. The Council was required to rush the adoption of this new Plan by 2023 because the Inspector of the Local Plan 2030 decided that it didn’t reflect the needs of the OxCam Arc. The Arc aims to create significant new employment opportunities with associated new housing within Bedfordshire and the counties between Oxford and Cambridge.
However due to the pandemic the Strategic Framework for the OxCam Arc has been delayed. This means that Bedford’s Local Plan 2040 must still be prepared without being able to dovetail with the Arc strategy therefore risking the same problem that undermined the Local Plan 2030.
Cllr Stephen Moon:
This is nonsense: not to wait for the delayed OxCam Spatial Framework to be prepared means that it cannot be taken into account in our plan. For Bedford to have to rush through this new Local Plan or be penalised creates a clear risk that the areas identified for growth will differ from those similarly identified in the Spatial Framework. It is not joined up government and we are lobbying for an extension of time.’
Great Denham Councillor Jim Weir commented: “The Local Plan 2040 must protect the urban gaps we have in Bedford. These spaces are important to their surrounding villages to stop them merging into one. Keeping these villages is so essential to local communities.”
Notes to editors:
The OxCam Arc consultation on creating a vision for the Spatial Framework is currently on going and closes on 12th October 2021:https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/creating-a-vision-for-the-oxford-cambridge-arc
The policy options for the Spatial Framework are due to be published in Spring 2022 for public consultation, with the Draft Spatial Framework and Sustainability Appraisal Environmental Report timetabled for publication to allow for consultation in Autumn 2022: https://placebuilder.io/futureofthearc/about/overview
Climate Change Emergency declared by Bedford Borough Council March 2019: https://www.bedfordindependent.co.uk/bedford-borough-council-declares-climate-emergency/
Conservative Group Response to Local Plan 2040: the Draft Plan Consultation: https://www.bedfordconservatives.org.uk/news/conservative-group-response-local-plan-2040-draft-plan-consultation
Steve Vallance, Political Researcher, Bedford Borough Conservative Group
Phone: 07505 142460
Cllr Stephen Moon, Conservative Local Plan Spokesperson