Central Bedfordshire Local Plan inspector raises 'shortcomings'
PUBLISHED: 14:46 25 October 2018 | UPDATED: 14:47 25 October 2018
A planning inspector has written to Central Bedfordshire Council for a second time over shortcomings with its proposed Local Plan.
The Local Plan is to govern growth in Central Bedfordshire over the next 20 years, with 20,000 new homes proposed to be built, and the creation of 24,000 jobs.
These will be supported by infrastructure changes, with new strategic road and rail projects in the pipeline, if it gets the go ahead.
The council submitted its Local Plan for initial consideration by the inspector Mike Hayden during the summer.
He replied with concerns over key areas of future housing development and about getting agreements with neighbouring councils where necessary.
The council tried to resolve the majority of the issues raised by the inspector in its response, but on September 12, Mr Hayden wrote back again suggesting some of the points have not been adequately addressed by the council.
On agreement with neighbouring local authorities, the inspector said: “Most notably those with Hertfordshire County Council, Highways England, Luton Borough Council and North Hertfordshire District Council appear critical to understanding how the outcomes of the actions taken under duty to co-operate have shaped the policies and proposals in the Local Plan to ensure they deal effectively with the strategic cross boundary matters.”
On transport, he said: “I asked for an understanding of the timescale within which greater certainty on an agreed and costed transport mitigation strategy for the plan’s proposals could be provided, but your answer falls short of providing that clarification.
“I note the series of corridor and junction studies underway for the A507, A505, A421, M1 junction 13 and A1 junction 10, and the planned review of the feasibility, funding and impact of the proposed improvement schemes, but your answer does not indicate a time frame for this work to be concluded.”
And on small to medium development sites: “I would be grateful if the council would provide this evidence and prepare a summary of the conclusions for each small and medium site proposed for allocation on site suitability, deliverability and developability.”
Mr Hayden added: “Accordingly, it would be premature to arrange the hearings part of the examination until this work has been completed and published.
“At this stage, as a matter of priority, I would be grateful if the council would provide me with a timetable for the completion of the above evidence, including any consultation and further work which you consider may be required as a result.
“Once I have an understanding of this, I will be able to indicate a timescale for the hearings part of the examination.”
In its latest letter to Mr Hayden, dated October 4, the council says Luton’s concerns “centre around affordable housing nomination rights, even though it is clear that these issues fall outside of the scope of the Local Plan”.
It also says that “in relation to the Local Plan, it is now abundantly clear that Luton Borough Council will not sign a Statement of Common Ground unless the non-planning issue in relation to affordable housing is addressed to its satisfaction.
“Therefore, it is very unlikely that we will achieve a signed SoCG.
“On this basis, we would contend that it is not appropriate that the examination of the Central Bedfordshire Local Plan is delayed based on a point of detail that is out of scope of the local plans process.
“Indeed, if LBC maintain it has any relevance, then that must now be examined as part of the hearing process.”
The council also says in its latest letter: “We are content that you as the inspector for this Local Plan recommend ‘main modifications’ if required during the course of the examination to make the submitted Local Plan sound and legally compliant.”
Independent Potton Central Bedfordshire councillor Adam Zerny said in a social media post: “It remains to be seen whether the inspector will be quite so satisfied with CBC’s arguments.”
To which a resident said: “It seems the council is abrogating its duty to prepare a sound Local Plan.
“It’s essentially telling the inspector ‘We’ve knocked together a few ideas. Can you please turn these into a proper local plan for us?’
And another said: “This all beggars belief. Potton has a neighbourhood plan that can’t be approved until a local plan is.
“Until then we are under attack by speculative planning applications.”