Council's £26k planning spend to develop homes 'looks like a done deal' says Biggleswade businessman
PUBLISHED: 10:54 14 February 2017
Questions are being raised about the way in which Central Bedfordshire Council is planning new homes and the amounts of money it is spending in the process.
The council has appointed consultants Woods Hardwick to draw up planning applications on land it owns for a new 95-capacity sheltered housing scheme on Sorrel Way, and 235 new homes on Saxon Drive.
The consultants have been paid for – and tasked with – drawing up plans for the developments which will then be considered for approval by the council.
But Biggleswade businessman Dave McCormick, who has lived in the town for 60 years, was shocked when he attended a public meeting on the plans last week and realised the council is effectively drawing up planning applications which it could then itself approve – even if a public consultation is hostile to the scheme.
He also put in a Freedom of Information request to the council, which revealed it had already paid out a sum of £26,000 to the consultants.
Mr McCormick said he questions the fact that taxpayers’ money is being paid out in such large sums for developments before they have a secured a positive response from the public – especially when they are on council-owned land.
He said: “This is taxpayers’ money, paid prior to any negotiation, or comments from local residents. £26,340 has been spent prior to local residents’ opinions being asked. This has all the appearance of a done deal, as the independent development company Woods Hardwick are being paid by the very department that is required to authorise planning permission.”
Like many other residents in Biggleswade and the town council, Mr McCormick is also concerned about the fact that new developments are being approved because the council is under pressure from the government to build homes, even while the town lacks the infrastructure to support them.
Central Beds Council stated: “Woods Hardwick’s planning fee is for work to co-ordinate and provide planning expertise to ensure that the schemes proposed in the planning applications is of the highest quality, and to ensure that all survey and investigation work – for example on matters such as archaeology, ecology, topography – which is required in support of any such planning application by any landowner is undertaken.
“The approach of CBC Assets has been carefully considered, and it has been concluded that this route to the market offered the best option for CBC Assets to achieve best use of this land.”