Clifton housing scheme deferred after committee fails to agree

A decision on a new housing scheme for Clifton has been deferred. File photo. Picture: Getty Images/

A decision on a new housing scheme for Clifton has been deferred. File photo. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Plans for 14 homes in Clifton have been deferred after Central Bedfordshire councillors couldn’t agree to approve or reject the development.

An initial recommendation to reject the proposals was overturned on the casting vote of the chairman, but then a second vote to approve the scheme was also lost.

A councillor’s change of heart resulted in a seven votes to six defeat of the second recommendation, which led to the scheme being put back until their next meeting.

Ray Dart, who chairs Clifton Parish Council, said it opposed the development.

He told Central Bedfordshire Council’s development management committee last night that Clifton is described as a large village with small-village facilities.

“We’ve lost a pub and four shops, and the nearest doctors is at Shefford,” he said. “The shop doubles as a Post Office counter.

“The village school is at full capacity, and the GP surgery is already overstretched.

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“The village is being changed by invested interests from outside, not organic development from within. It’s death by a thousand cuts.

“This project is not part of the local plan,” he added. “We should reject speculative development and not regard this as windfall.”

The meeting heard there were 78 objections from the public to the scheme.

Matthew Hale, for the applicants, described it as a small development with 50 per cent affordable housing. He said none of the council’s departments had objected to the plans.

He confirmed that North Herts Homes had seen the site “and made us an offer”, but said there was no contractual agreement with the firm.

Conservative Arlesey councillor Richard Wenham could not attend the meeting, but a statement was read out on his behalf.

“This application has generated considerable opposition. Clifton is under siege by this type of development,” it read.

“It will have an impact on the wider infrastructure. Resources are limited in Clifton.

“This is building in the open countryside, with a loss of grade-two farmland. I urge members to reject it.”

Planning officer Martin Plummer said there were no objections from the local authority’s education team or from the NHS, and the applicant has indicated it is grade-three farmland.

Conservative Arlesey councillor Ian Dalgarno said he is extremely disappointed with the way the application has been submitted.

His concerns include a proposed access from Bilberry Way, which would go through a number of parking spaces at the end of the cul-de-sac.

“A huge number of developments are coming forward and it’s consuming the facilities there,” he said.

“I have real concerns about that. We are reaching the tipping point. We may have reached it. I am uncomfortable. I can’t support it.”

But Conservative Dunstable Watling councillor Nigel Young said windfall provision is acceptable “if the benefits outweigh the harm”, and that this would be the case with this project.

He asked for “absolute clarity on the access through Bilberry Way to the affordable housing”, which would be tied to a legal agreement.

Mr Dalgarno proposed refusing the application, which was lost. A second recommendation to approve it was also defeated by one vote.

The committee then agreed by eight votes to two to defer the proposals to their next meeting in July.

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