Sustainability Appraisal Main Modifications Report
Chapter 10 - Conclusions, Consultation and Next Steps
10.1 The Sustainability Appraisal (SA) for the Central Bedfordshire Local Plan has helped to identify and refine reasonable alternative spatial strategies, strategic scale sites, small and medium scale sites, and policy approaches. The reasonable alternatives have been appraised to predict the likely significant effects – positive and negative, including cumulative effects; and suggested mitigation measures to avoid or minimise negative effects. The SA findings have informed the progression of the strategic options and the development of the spatial strategy as well as informing the drafting of strategic and development management policies. It should be noted that the SA is not the sole source of information and that plan-making is informed by other technical studies and comments received through consultation.
10.2 Both the submitted Local Plan and the accompanying SA reports have been subject to thorough examination by Planning Inspectors appointed by the Secretary of State, and the Main Modifications to the submitted Local Plan are being proposed as part of this process.
10.3 While this SA report of the Main Modifications contains a significant volume of appraisal work, most of this has been published previously in earlier iterations of the SA. The new SA work presented here relates to the Main Modifications that Central Bedfordshire Council (CBC) now proposes to make to the Local Plan as submitted.
10.4 The development provided for through the Local Plan will, if successfully implemented, deliver the identified housing and employment needs of Central Bedfordshire over the plan period. The Local Plan will also make a significant contribution towards meeting the unmet housing needs of neighbouring Luton Borough, and it responds positively to meet the regional need for warehousing and distribution sites on the strategic transport network.
10.5 The development of strategic site allocations in particular will deliver large numbers of homes and jobs, as well as services and facilities which will support the creation of sustainable new communities as well as being utilised by existing residents. While development of the scale proposed through the Local Plan will inevitably have some adverse effects on the natural environment, in particular the sensitive landscape of parts of Central Bedfordshire, the Local Plan as proposed to be modified includes strong mitigation to avoid or reduce such effects where possible. Requirements set out in strategic site allocation policies are designed to ensure that specific appropriate mitigation is delivered as part of each development.
10.6 The proposed Main Modifications do not significantly affect the SA findings that were reported previously at the Regulation 19 stage. While a number of the strategic policies have been amended, and in particular the boundaries of some of the strategic allocations are proposed to be modified, these changes are made to reduce the potential for adverse effects, for example by better integrating sites into the landscape and ensuring appropriate vehicular access. Therefore, in general the proposed modifications reinforce positive effects identified previously or provide additional mitigation relating to negative effects identified previously.
10.7 Many of the development management policies are also proposed to be modified. However, in most cases the proposed changes are relatively minor amendments to the wording that do not affect the overall meaning of the policies or the mitigation that they will provide for the potential impacts of development. Therefore, in general the proposed modifications to the development management policies confirm the positive effects of those policies that have already been identified through the SA and strengthen the mitigation that they provide.
10.8 This SA Report will be published alongside the schedule of proposed Main Modifications on the Council's website for consultation from March 2021.
10.9 Following the consultation on the proposed modifications to the Local Plan, the Inspectors will consider the representations raised in respect of the Main Modifications and will report on the modified Local Plan's soundness.
10.10 If the Local Plan is found to be 'sound', it can be formally adopted by Central Bedfordshire Council. Once the Local Plan has been adopted, a SA Adoption Statement will be published to report the full plan-making and SA process and the framework for monitoring future effects.