A committee chairman used his casting vote to give the go-ahead to a development of 341 new homes on a derelict former factory site in Kempston.
Pointing out that the proposals would be 200 parking spaces short of Bedford Borough Council’s accepted standards, objectors fear jam-packed residential roads would have to squeeze in more cars.
“This is going to lead to enormous problems for residents,” said Cllr Kay Burley (Lab, Kempston Central & East) at Bedford Borough Council’s planning committee.
“In my view, because of a shortage of money it’s going to be overdeveloped, with a lack of parking,” she added.
Cllr Burley said the former Hazlewood Foods site in Dallas Road has been the subject of numerous plans over the course of her 50 years in the area and 25 as a councillor.
Although not against the principle of developing the site, she called the seven blocks proposed “out of kilter” with the area and not enhancing the village feel of Kempston.
“It looks like some big office block,” she added at Monday’s meeting.
Planning consultant David Onions, speaking on behalf of applicant Bells Vireo said the application for the site, which has been vacant for a decade, offered an “exciting and innovative gateway” into the town.
He said the parking was based on an analysis of local car ownership levels, using data from the 2011 Census.
“Council officers say they are ok with it,” he said.
The meeting heard that the councillors had to give “weight” to the Census data, despite it being 10 years old.
The site is proposed to take 313 one, two and three-bed flats, and 28 town-houses with two and three beds
Cllr Abu Sultan (Lab, Cauldwell) said the applicants were “cherry-picking” their data and called for a review of the numbers.
Cllr James Valentine (Lab, Kempston West) said they would form “massive buildings along the road” and added: “They are quite barracks-like aren’t they?”
And Cllr Jim Weir (Cons, Kempston Rural) said: “It gives the appearance of a flour mill.”
Planning officer Alastair Wren said their recommendation to approve the plan was a “balanced” position, with issues both weighing in its favour, and against.
He added that the 326 car parking spaces proposed for the 2.74-hectare site falls 206 short of their usual standards but they accepted that it was “appropriate” and would not cause a problem off-site.
The developers have also offered to pay for a residents’ controlled parking zone in the area.
“You will have to decide whether officers have got this right,” said Mr Wren.
A dramatic double vote was held after Cllr Sultan proposed rejecting the application and councillors split four votes each.
Chairman Cllr Jon Abbott (Lib Dem, Oakley) released the logjam by voting in favour of the development.
The councillors then had to vote again to positively give it the go-ahead but were again split down the middle at four each.
Cllr Abbott provided the decisive tiebreaker again saying he supported development in the town and “this is right for the site.”
by David Tooley
Local Democracy Reporter