Central Bedfordshire council rebuts criticism from CPRE over its Local Plan

Bedfordshire Local Plan map

Bedfordshire Local Plan map - Credit: Archant

The Campaign for Rural England has issued a damning criticism of Central Bedfordshire Council’s Local Plan, which earmarks housing and employment sites in the district inclucing Biggleswade, Sandy and Potton for the next 20 years.

The organisation, which has a mission to defend England’s countryside, issued its formal response to the plan during an eight-week public consultation over the summer.

It heavily criticises the council for holding its consultation over the holidays, when it says the majority of councillors, planners and residents were on holiday.

It said this had created a “democratic deficit” which means the plan has not been properly approved by people living in the area.

However Central Beds denies this, saying the consultation started on July 4 – a full three weeks before the school holidays, and ran for eight rather than the six weeks required by the government.

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A council spokeswoman added: “The consultation we held over the summer was just one of a series of opportunities for people to get involved. Prior to developing the plan, we held a public consultation last year and then 15 community planning events across Central Bedfordshire so that residents’ views could inform the first draft of the plan.

“We also made every effort to make it as easy as possible for people to engage with the Plan. We created a summary leaflet that was widely available and on our website too. We also made a short film that had 195,000 views on Facebook.”

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The council spokeswoman told the Comet yesterday there would be further consultations on the next draft of the plan early in 2018.

CPRE also accuses the council of misleading people about the number of houses it is planning. It says the council claims in some parts of the document it needs to build between 20,000 to 30,000 homes across the district, but elsewhere outlines targets to build between 42,600 and 54,960 homes.

But while the latter figures are clearly laid out in the plan, the council says it is the CPRE which is misleading the public as it is only in the early stages of deciding exactly how much development will be needed and many of the sites suggested for development will not actually come forward.

The final draft of the plan will be submitted for government examination in the spring.

It can be viewed at www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk.

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