Planning, it’s never far from the headlines nationally, or locally. The rule book rewritten in 2012 and the Regional Spatial Strategies abandoned.
Eight years on and the headlines are full of talk of changing the rules again by the Government.
Of course there are really two parts to planning: development control/management (deciding applications) and drafting planning policy.
In Bedford Borough you could be forgiven for thinking that the actual ‘planning’ part, i.e. the policy setting, had been settled for a while with the adoption of the Local Plan 2030 but that is not so.
In fact the Council is launching the first stage of its next local plan for after 2030 today (14 July).
This comprises an ‘issues and options’ consultation which sets out a variety of options for where growth could take place across the Borough, and a ‘call for sites’ to see what land is available for development.
As ever, the main focus is housing but employment and infrastructure are also major considerations and will have an impact on our local economy for years to come.
The strategy set at this stage will help influence which sites are chosen for development and the look and feel of Bedford town, our villages and our countryside.
There’s a very delicate balanced to be struck and public input at this stage is very important.
Most Parish Councils are very familiar with the process by now and will be responding on behalf of their communities.
Some residents may also be experienced at expressing their views and of course landowners and their agents will be submitting their views as well.
The big difference this time of course is the COVID factor. This public consultation will be taking place without the benefit of physical public consultation events in halls across the Borough and therefore, as I have mentioned before, there is a risk that this consultation will pass people by.
Please make sure that you take the time to have a look at the consultation, even if you think you aren’t that interested in planning you might feel differently when you see the suggestions (either positively or negatively).
You can view and comment on the consultation here.
It’s important to share your views at this early strategy setting stage whether you feel that your village could do with a few new houses for vibrancy or the local community or you have views on where large development could/should take place.
In particular, if you feel that there is a better way to include communities and residents in this consultation in these unusual times please do let me know and I will pass those ideas on.
You may wonder why the consultation can’t wait.
That is because the Local Plan 2030 has a requirement that the next local plan is submitted by January 2023 or speculative applications will be accepted again.
It may sounds like a very achievable deadline but when the statutory consultation times are factored in alone, let alone the months of analysis, it is a gruelling timetable.
By way of a comparison a similar clause was put in the 2015 plan which was the one before the Local Plan 2030 adopted this year.
Of course, none of this leaves much time for other supplementary planning guidance. If you, for example, have views on how new houses look, you might be interested to know that the guidance is from 1997 and 2000, but in my view, opinions on good design for Bedford Borough have changed in that time.
Finally let us not forget the town centre – currently the idea is for policies relating to the town centre to be included in the new local plan, but can we wait three years?
Have a look at the consultation, and share your views on our future.
by Cllr Phillippa Martin-Moran-Bryant
Great Barford Ward (comprising Cardington, Cople,
Great Barford, Ravensden, Renhold -including Cranbourne Gardens,
Willington and Woodlands Park -part of Brickhill Parish)
Tel: 07934 853 907