Planning inspector raises concerns over 2040 Local Plan

The hand of a builder placing bricks as they build a wall

The Planning Inspectorate has raised concerns about Bedford Borough Council’s new Local Plan, saying that there is a shortfall of “at least 2,000 homes”.

In a letter published today, Inspector Darren McCreery outlined the reasons for his view that the Local Plan cannot currently be found sound.

You can read the full letter on Bedford Borough Council’s website here.

Many of the issues raised in Mr McCreery’s letter centre around the uncertain time frames of large transport infrastructure projects including the National Highway’s widening project of the A421 and the proposed East West Rail project.

In his manifesto, Mayor Tom Wootton said that he would “press pause” on the Local Plan, pledging to write to the Planning Inspector on day one of his tenure in the job.

However, a month after being in office, a Bedford Borough Council spokesperson said: “[Mayor Tom] has taken legal advice and considered the risks associated with not progressing the plan, and has decided to continue with the examination as programmed.”

Read: Mayor accused of “wasting taxpayers’ money” over paused Local Plan legal fees

Liberal Democrat group leader, Cllr Henry Vann described the planning inspector’s decision as a “slap in the face for all Bedford Borough residents”.

“[It’s] caused by the Conservatives’ own failure to fund infrastructure investment in the A421 which the inspector identifies as a major cause of its failure,” said Cllr Vann.

“This Local Plan was backed by Councillors of all parties and none.

“But now, massive rural overdevelopment (and unmanageable urban development) is back on the table. If the government could properly commit to vital local infrastructure investment, this would not have happened.

“People need houses and jobs, and this plan can deliver that – all eyes will now be on what the Tories’ plans may mean for local residents current and future. 

“Will the Mayor get his government to provide the improved A421 for the planned housing or will he propose more housing sites throughout the Borough?”

In response to the Planning Inspector’s letter, a Bedford Borough Council spokesperson said: “We are surprised that the Inspector has identified some areas of the Local Plan that he would like to see further work on.

“We will now take some time to consider our response and will update residents of our decision of how we intend to proceed.”

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