Central Bedfordshire Council cuts deadline to complete Local Plan and dodge housing hike

Bedfordshire Local Plan map

Bedfordshire Local Plan map - Credit: Archant

Central Bedfordshire Council has slashed the timetable for putting together its Local Plan so that it can avoid higher targets for building houses which the Government says it could bring in.

The Local Plan will shape housing and employment in the area for the next 20 years.

After creating a draft plan and carrying out an initial consultation on it, Central Beds had planned to carry out a consultation on a second draft and submit the plan to the government for consideration in Autumn 2018.

But last month, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid warned local authorities they could face increases of up to 40 per cent in the number of houses they would have to find. In a list of local authorities, the Government says Central Beds has been proposing 1,600 new houses a year but it could have to find 2,553 a year if the plan is not submitted by the deadline.

At an executive meeting last week, the council agreed to dramatically cut the timeline for the plan and submit it in March 2018.

A letter written to Biggleswade Town Council after the meeting states: “Submitting a Local Plan before March 31 2018 should mean that central government cannot impose the proposed higher housing numbers on us.

“The proposed new housing need calculation would see a 60 per cent increase in the number of homes we would need to plan for. We believe this to be both unreasonable and completely undeliverable.

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“Not only is this a significant increase it is also way above the average increase for our neighbouring authorities which averages at a 29 per cent increase.”

At a full council meeting last month, Central Beds councillors voted unanimously to robustly challenge the Government’s proposals through its national consultation, which it says is “inappropriately entitled” ‘placing the right homes in the right places’.

It is now calling on town and parish councils across Central Beds – including Biggleswade, Sandy and Potton – to stand with it in opposing the scheme.

But independent Potton town councillor Adam Zerny says the revised timetable will put the plan at risk of not being agreed to by the Government because the council will have less time to get the necessary evidence.