The Local Plan
Bedford Borough’s Local Plan 2030 is of profound importance to Bedford residents whether they live in the town or in the rural area. It should provide a coherent and planned approach to the inevitable growth in population that we face over the coming years. If the Borough has got it wrong the damage will be irreparable.
The plan was originally intended to extend to 2035 but the original draft proposals included the rushed and ill-conceived proposal for a “garden village” at Colworth.
Bedford Borough Council (BBC) adopted their new Local Plan 2030 on 15th January 2020 following an examination by government appointed Planning Inspectors. As a result, officers consider that the Council has a 5 year housing land supply, meaning that applications on land not included in the Plan will not usually be accepted. That at least temporarily ends the risk to villages of speculative developments.
However, the Inspectors who examined and approved BBC’s Local Plan 2030 required the Council to start a Review of the Plan as soon as it is adopted to take into consideration government plans for development across the Oxford – Cambridge Arc e.g. East/West Rail and increased housing development.
This Review, which will look forward to 2040/45 must be completed within 3 years (by 2023) and will also take into account the new “Standard Method” for calculating housing need in the Borough. This will mean that, using the current “Standard Method”, housing development will have to rise from around 970 new homes per year in the newly adopted Local Plan 2030 to around 1,300 homes per year, a massive +30% increase.
BBC has already started this Review and it will be really challenging for them to achieve the increase in housing numbers required to meet the “Standard Method” target. They will of course almost certainly come up with a plan which achieves the housing target but at what cost to the North Beds villages? A failure to prepare a plan is unthinkable as that would immediately leave us unable to defend against damaging speculative applications that we have witnessed across the Borough during 2019. However, the Council already seems again to be committed to placing massive housing developments, or new towns, in the rural areas, despite the infrastructure pressures that will create, rather than planning for the admittedly more difficult task of expanding the urban area.