Archived News - Green Belt
Families affected by a proposed development in Eaton Bray are calling for South Beds District Council to come clean about whether it got the go-ahead because of an error.
Members of the council's planning committee agreed to give outline planning permission for building work on a strip of land next to Bower Lane, which will back on to homes in Medley Close.
But neighbours claim that the strip used to be part of the Green Belt, and they say that they've yet to be given a reason for it being removed.
Sidney Willis, of Medley Close, said after the decision was made: "It was in the Green Belt, and I have maps to prove it. What we want to know is where they got permission to take it out of the Green Belt."
Mr Willis, 81, claims that the council cannot come up with a reason for removing the Green Belt, and has alleged that the change may be the result of an error while officers were drawing up a map which was used for the council's Local Plan.
"It was an error, it was wrong and it should never have been done," he told members of the planning committee.
The row started three years ago, when the landowners first applied for outline permission to build on the site.
Councillors agreed to grant it. But the terms of that agreement have now expired, so a fresh application had to be lodged. Councillor Tony Northwood, a member of the planning committee at the time of the first application, said at the meeting about the site not being in the Green Belt: "I suspect it was done in error."
Mr Willis said later: "It would have been an opportunity to look again, but they haven't. They should have looked in 2003 when we first objected. South Beds' planning department should have seen this was wrong before they put it up for public approval.
"Had they taken the bother and said 'Let's investigate it,' then something would've been done.
"They should have either admitted they'd done it or put it back in," he said.
Mr Willis, a former district councillor, has been frustrated in his efforts to find out why the plot of land is no longer in the Green Belt.
"Everyone I spoke to said they could find no reason to take it out the Green Belt," he said.
People living in Medley Close have formed a committee opposing the development.
They have also demanded to know under the Freedom of Information Act why the are was removed from the Green Belt.
The Gazette put Mr Willis's concerns to the council, which confirmed that part of the strip was in Green Belt land until 1995.
A spokeswoman for the council verified that there is no record of why the change was made to the Green Belt boundaries, but said that this is often the case when changes are made to clarify the boundary line. She pointed out that in this case the new Green Belt boundaries follow property boundaries, whereas previously they did not.
The council also confirmed that the issue had been looked at by senior officers including the chief executive.
But a local government watchdog had decided no to pursue the complaint.
The Freedom of Information request is currently being looked at, a spokesman said.
Mr Willis has also voiced some doubts about whether the thin strip of land next to Bower Lane is suitable for development.
"If that piece of land is used, how and where can they build on it? It's not wide enough to build houses on. I don't see how they're going to do it. It's crazy," he said.
Source: Dunstable Gazette, 18 October 2006