Back in the heady days of the early noughties, before spiv bankers brought the economy to its knees and....
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“I Can Remember When This Was All Fields”

Posted on May 2, 2009

This article was published in May 2009. Please see Latest News for more recent information.

Back in the heady days of the early noughties, before spiv bankers brought the economy to its knees and the housing market to a standstill, the Government decided that the nation needed to build more houses. Not just a few but hundreds of thousands. One of the places it chose to site these was southern Bedfordshire - and in 2005 Luton, Dunstable, Houghton Regis and Leighton - Linslade were formally designated as a “Growth Area”. Around these towns the green belt would be rolled back to make room for an additional 41,700. The job of deciding exactly where these houses should be built was given to a new “Joint Committee” made up of councillors from Luton, South Bedfordshire and Bedfordshire County Council's. The committee assembled a team of professional planners and work on the new plan commenced.

In June 2007 it was able to publish its first document for consultation - the “Core Strategy: Issues and Options” which explored various locations for the new houses. No less than 10 “options” were proposed, and, much to the surprise of many, some of the areas suggested for major new development were green belt villages outside the designated “growth area” - including Eaton Bray.

Soon afterwards the collapse of Northern Rock heralded the end of cheap and plentiful credit and the housing market collapsed. House building ground to a halt. But the joint committee's work continued - albeit slowly. By the time this article appears in Focus it will have published its “Core Strategy : Preferred Options” document for consultation. This refines the ten options to one. It sidesteps the issue of precisely where new housing will be built - delegating this to a later document called the “Site Allocations DPD” - but it does identify general areas for growth.

Most new development is to be located in or adjacent to the four towns, but the expansion of villages is also proposed. The key wording is in Policy CS1: “A limited scale of development will be allocated or supported in rural areas. This will be in and/or on the edge of the rural settlements that are currently excluded from the Green Belt...... Small scale reviews of the Green Belt boundary on the edge of these rural settlements may be required to enable such development to proceed...

Eaton Bray is such a “rural settlement” and the Policy opens up the prospect of pressure for the release of land on the edge of the village, currently in the Green Belt, for new housing development. What “limited” means is not made clear. Views will vary about whether this would be a good or a bad thing, but the matter deserves to be the subject of local scrutiny and debate. The future of your village depends on it. The opportunity exists now to have your say, one way or the other, so don't miss it!

-- George Crutcher. MRTPI

This is the second of an occasional series on of articles on Town Planning issues. George Crutcher is a locally based Planning Consultant.

Source: Focus, May 2009

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