Neighbourhood plans covering Bletsoe, Bromham, Stevington and Thurleigh parishes are set to be formally adopted by Bedford Borough Council’s executive.
Each neighbourhood plan was overwhelmingly approved by a local referendum on 6 May.
Neighbourhood plans have legal power when it comes to planning decisions. Planning applications within an area will be considered in terms of how they fit with any local neighbourhood plan.
Introduced through the Localism Act 2011, neighbourhood plans offer theoretically greater local community say over planning.
They cannot propose less development for an area than already contained in the local plan. But they can propose over a period of time more development, specify suitable locations and require higher design standards.
An area with a neighbourhood plan will also directly receive an increased share of Community Infrastructure Levy receipts from developments there.
Bromham’s neighbourhood plan, for example, indicates the construction of an additional pedestrian and cycle bridge over the River Great Ouse to Bedford as a priority to spend the likely increased funding on.
There is a lot of flexibility with what a neighbourhood plan covers, with some broader than others.
This has been mirrored with the neighbourhood plans for Bletsoe, Bromham, Stevington and Thurleigh.
Key points from Bletsoe’s neighbourhood plan, covering 2017-2035, include:
- Vision to keep Bletsoe as ‘a peaceful rural village’
- Two identified areas for possible residential development, subject to criteria, with eight new dwellings on land behind Captains Close and three new dwellings north of The Old Rectory
- Proposals containing shared ownership housing will be encouraged
- A requirement, unless not practical, for all new residential, commercial and community buildings within the neighbourhood plan area to have the cabling for superfast, fibre-optic broadband
The plan was approved by 93-32 votes on a referendum turnout of 59%.
For Bromham’s neighbourhood plan, which was ‘with some reluctance’ limited to 2030 in line with the existing local plan, future housing sites dominated:
- With the borough’s Local Plan 2030 requiring 500 new homes in Bromham, the neighbourhood plan identifies three sites:
1) An area known as Beauchamp Park to the immediate east of the A428 Bromham Bypass and both north and south of Stagsden Road is identified for 390 residential units
2) Stagsden Rise is identified for a minimum 80 residential units
3) A maximum possible 30 residential units are allocated for potential development at the Old Stable Yard, Hall Farm
- No dwellings on any of the developments are permitted to be more than two storeys high
- A number of recreational and community infrastructure conditions are attached to the possible developments, including dedicated sports space at Beauchamp Park
- Support for possible development of Bromham Primary School at its existing location to cope with potentially more pupils
- Cycle lanes will be installed in both directions on Stagsden Road on a trial basis
Bromham’s plan was approved by 1,159 votes to 221, on a 35% turnout.
For Stevington, there’s a notable reference to residents in feedback for a neighbourhood plan worrying about the village suffering ‘urban creep’ like Bromham.
Other notable points in Stevington’s neighbourhood plan, covering 2020-2035, include:
- Any new housing in the area must meet local needs by being predominantly either suitable for the elderly and/or smaller 1-3 bedroom properties
- A number of locations including the Village Playing Field, Court Lane, are designated as Local Green Space, meaning they’re to be protected from inappropriate development
- Development isn’t permitted within the wind corridor for Stevington’s iconic windmill, unless proven to not interfere with the winds required for the mill’s sails
- In total, the word ‘windmill’ appears in the 65 page document 33 times
Stevington’s plan was approved by 227-19 votes on a turnout of 51%.
Controversially, Bedford Borough Council’s planning committee overrode on 17 May Stevington’s designation of its old chapel building on Park Road as a ‘community facility’.
Thurleigh’s neighbourhood plan covers up to 2030 and notable elements include:
- Land allocated for possible development of up to 30 new homes – The Beeches, High Street, is identified as suitable for approximately 10 new dwellings, while Hayle Field, High Street, covers the rest
- None of the new dwellings can exceed two storeys high and any facing onto the high street can only be up to one and a half storeys high.
- For any proposed new development a ‘presumption in favour’ of preserving existing public rights of way will operate.
Thurleigh’s plan was approved at the ballot boxes by a margin of 157-43 votes, on a 35% turnout.
Both Bletsoe and Thurleigh parish councils commit to exploring local demand for allotments in the community aspirations sections of their plans.
Bromham parish council also express ‘grave doubts’ in their neighbourhood plan about plans since 2019 for all GP facilities to be moved to Biddenham.
Noting it would effectively require residents to drive to their GP, they describe the proposal as ‘a somewhat blinkered approach given the clearly worsening climate crisis’.
When formally adopted at a council executive meeting, the new neighbourhood plans will join those of Carlton and Chellington, and Oakley in shaping development in the borough.
Harrold, Milton Ernest, Sharnbrook and Turvey are now at the stage in the neighbourhood plan process before being put to a possible local referendum for approval.
It remains to be seen how the proposed planning bill in the recent Queen’s Speech may affect the power of neighbourhood plans in the future.