Central Bedfordshire Draft Local Plan (July 2017)

Ended on the 29th August 2017
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(85) 7 The Spatial Strategy

(20) 7.1 Overview

7.1.1 Central Bedfordshire is powerfully affected by its relationship with surrounding major centres; particularly London, Milton Keynes, Bedford and Luton; and also by its strategic position at the centre of the Oxford – Cambridge corridor. This presents significant opportunities not only for improved connectivity and growth within Central Bedfordshire, but for the Council to take a lead in continued strategic joint working with our neighbours to contribute to enhanced growth opportunities identified within the NIC Report[6].

7.1.2 The challenge, which this strategy addresses, is to embrace the opportunities for sustainable economic led growth while safeguarding and enhancing the environmental, heritage and community features that make the area a great place to live and work. 

7.1.3 Central Bedfordshire will deliver a minimum of 24,000 new jobs over the plan period by growing existing key employment locations and sectors and by taking full advantage of our transport infrastructure opportunities. In addition, around 6000 jobs will be delivered to meet 'footloose[7]' strategic warehousing (B8 uses) on three major strategic employment sites.

7.1.4 To meet our statutory requirements and to serve the interests of our communities, the draft local plan proposes delivery of a minimum of 20,000 new homes in addition to our existing commitments. However the plan additionally allows for flexibility and identifies strategic growth locations that could accommodate a greater number of homes should they be necessary to allow for emerging strategies and to respond to the emerging opportunities outlined in this section.

7.1.5 New growth locations will require further detailed assessment to ensure that they are sustainable and deliverable and some locations may not meet these tests. These locations may therefore be reduced in the next draft of the plan which will be published next spring. The range of new homes to be delivered identified below also allows the necessary flexibility to take account of the awaited changes to the way in which housing need is calculated, which will be published by the government later this year.

(16) 7.2 Key Local and Strategic Drivers

7.2.1 The strategy seeks to grow existing communities so that they are more sustainable through improved services, facilities and employment opportunities, leading to reduced travelling and outflows. Growth will be delivered without over development which threatens the character of our existing communities.

7.2.2 It is recognised that some communities in the northern area of Central Bedfordshire outside of the Green Belt consider that they have already had to take unplanned growth in recent years due to speculative development while there was no five year housing land supply. Continuing unrestrained growth in these areas is unsustainable and so while Green Belt continues to be a constraint in the south; supported by evidence in the Sustainability Appraisal (paragraphs 5.1.5-5.1.6) the strategy proposes a more of a balance between growth in the north and south of the area. In terms of scale too, a balance between more moderate development around existing towns and villages and large new settlements is therefore proposed, recognising that an entirely new community takes longer to deliver and needs entirely new services. 

7.2.3 The delivery of small and medium scale growth alongside the strategic locations will ensure the continuous delivery of homes in the short to medium term and enable the Council to maintain a rolling 5 year housing land supply.

(22) 7.3 Urban Intensification, Previously Developed Land & Transport Hubs

7.3.1 Transport infrastructure often has the biggest impact on the delivery of new development; both directly in terms of journeys to work and services, but also in terms of the environment and economic opportunity. A key part of the strategy is therefore to place as much of the growth as possible close to sustainable transport corridors and interchanges as this is considered to be one of the most effective ways of exploiting the positive opportunities and allowing for the intensification of brownfield sites.

7.3.2 Luton, Dunstable and Houghton Regis have a significant role to play in contributing towards growth within the Luton Housing Market Area. An Urban Capacity Study for the Dunstable, Houghton Regis and Luton conurbation identified opportunities to increase the capacity of sites identified within the conurbation by increasing their density.

7.3.3 Elsewhere within Central Bedfordshire established local planning policies, such as the Settlement Envelope policy (see Section 10), have been successful in directing development within settlements onto previously developed or vacant land. These sites within settlements have made a significant contribution towards meeting our growth requirements. The Council is also taking a proactive approach to strengthening our towns and villages and has a delivery programme in place (The Market Towns Regeneration Fund) to secure sustainable growth opportunities and stimulate regeneration.

7.3.4 Evidence gathering on previously developed land has demonstrated there is only a limited amount of 'brownfield' land in Central Bedfordshire that remains undeveloped. Therefore while the Council is committed to maximising the use of available land within settlements and seeking brownfield opportunities like former airfields (Tempsford and RAF Henlow), there is not enough remaining to avoid seeking development on greenfield sites.

(11) 7.4 Strategic Opportunities

7.4.1 Central Bedfordshire has accommodated significant new housing in the past. The vision is for the area to maintain and enhance this momentum of growth in line with the ambitious growth agenda outlined within the Housing White Paper (February 2017) and the NIC Corridor Interim Report (November 2016) and subsequent discussion paper (March 2017).  This will be achieved through well managed sustainable development delivered through growth in accordance with the spatial strategy outlined in section 7.5.

7.4.2 In addition to the objectively assessed housing needs for Central Bedfordshire and the delivery of unmet housing needs arising from outside the area, the Plan recognises the potential for strategic opportunities for additional growth which may ultimately extend growth beyond the current plan period and allow Central Bedfordshire to realise its full potential. The Plan provides the conditions for this strategic opportunity to be realised, including the consideration of locations along the A1 Corridor and in relation to the East West Rail proposals, supporting the early delivery of major new infrastructure and employment opportunities.

(32) 7.5 Spatial Strategy Approach

7.5.1 The approach to the spatial strategy for Central Bedfordshire is detailed below.

This Plan seeks to:

  • Build on our existing and emerging economic strengths in key sectors and deliver a minimum of 24,000-30,000 new jobs.
  • Deliver between 20,000 and 30,000 homes[8] through new villages, moderate extensions to existing towns and villages and a new market town in line with the provision of new infrastructure and to meet identified housing need close to key transport corridors (East-west, A1/East Coast Mainline and M1/Thameslink)
  • Balance the delivery of significant sustainable infrastructure and growth with the enhancement and protection of existing communities, landscape, heritage and countryside and actively prevent the coalescence of settlements across the area, including investigating opportunities for new Green Belt where appropriate.
  • Maximise potential opportunities for the intensification and redevelopment e.g. Tempsford Airfield and RAF Henlow and the regeneration of urban areas (Biggleswade, Dunstable, Houghton Regis, Flitwick, Leighton Linslade & Sandy) through town centre frameworks or masterplans.
  • Identify and deliver spatial options and strategic opportunities that could provide for longer term economic and housing growth at Tempsford, Biggleswade and in the Marston Vale. This growth will support, and must be supported by, new strategic infrastructure particularly the Oxford – Cambridge Expressway, A1 improvements and new rail stations/transport interchanges along the East West Rail route at Ridgmont, Wixams and north of Sandy.
  • Deliver housing need identified for the Luton HMA and some unmet need from Luton close to where it arises where there is capacity to do so sustainably. This will either be through strategic extensions close to Luton's urban edge or through moderate extensions to existing villages and towns with good connectivity and access to services. This will mean releasing some Green Belt land where exceptional circumstances can be demonstrated.

(121) 7.6 The Proposed Growth Locations

Area A – South

7.6.1 This plan identifies a requirement to accommodate 'unmet need' as Luton is a highly constrained urban area. Some of this need is being met by other neighbouring authorities; however through Duty to Co-operate discussions; the Council has agreed to provide for 7350 homes within Central Bedfordshire within the Luton Housing Market Area (HMA).

7.6.2 As the Luton HMA is largely comprised of Green Belt land, this will mean some release of land within the Green Belt where 'exceptional circumstances'[9] can be demonstrated.

7.6.3 Consultation told us that growth in the south was supported because of the proximity to key services in the urban centres of Dunstable, Houghton Regis and Luton.

7.6.4 Significant pieces of new infrastructure in the south, including the A5-M1 link road, the Woodside Link, the Luton/Dunstable Busway and new Junction 11a, will also help to support this level of growth.

7.6.5 These new homes will either be in the form of strategic sites that are closely related to Luton's urban edge and deliver significant of levels of growth to meet need where it is arising; or in the form of highly sustainable extensions of a more moderate scale to large towns and villages that are inset into the Green Belt; where there is a good level of services and connectivity and where sites are available that would not detrimentally impact on the openness of the Green Belt.

7.6.6 The Growth Locations being considered in this area are:

  • North of Luton – around 4000 homes
  • Limited extensions to larger towns and villages within the Green Belt (around 2000 homes collectively)
  • West of Luton (around 2,000 homes)
  • M1 Junction 11a (around 40 hectares for employment)

Area A – South & West M1 Corridor


Potential for all levels of growth including strategic scale growth adjoining urban areas, where Green Belt release can be justified.

This area is constrained by the Green Belt and Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). However, major sites to the north of Houghton Regis are already under development or have planning permission while significant growth is underway at Leighton Buzzard.

Growth Potential:

Small villages in the Green Belt generally have limited capacity to grow but there is some potential for medium scale growth along the major transport corridor following the M1, A5 and the railway (Midland Main Line), or large scale growth for sites in close proximity to Luton that could be linked to the Luton-Dunstable Busway and/or the strategic transportation network. The lack of new sites within the urban areas of Luton, Dunstable and Houghton Regis mean that significant further growth in Central Bedfordshire is likely to be required. However any further development in the Green Belt will need to be thoroughly justified to meet national planning policy.


The Chilterns AONB and Greensand Ridge Nature Improvement Area (NIA), with their valued habitats and landscapes are existing environmental assets. Opportunities for new environmental projects include creating a long distance cycleway along the Greensand Ridge, and new Country Parks for Ampthill and Flitwick, and the Barton-le-Clay area.

Area B – A1 Corridor

7.6.7 Evidence studies and consultation told us that this is the best performing of the four areas to take large scale growth with potential urban extension or new settlement scale sites at Sandy, East of Biggleswade, Tempsford Airfield and other sustainable locations along the A1 Corridor.

7.6.8 It is recognised however that to take forward significant growth in this area, there has to be government support for further investment in strategic transportation including both the East Coast Mainline and the Central Section of East/West Rail which proposes a new station/interchange around  Sandy. Investment from the developments themselves and from other funding sources in increasing the capacity of the stretch of the A1 through Central Bedfordshire will be absolutely critical in moving forward with multiple strategic scale growth proposals. Proposals for East of Biggleswade and a new settlement at Tempsford are indicative at this stage as there is potential scope in the longer term for greater levels of growth if the infrastructure required to deliver this is secured.

7.6.9 The Growth Locations being considered in this area are:

  • Tempsford New Settlement  (around 7000+ homes)
  • East of Biggleswade  (around 3000 homes)
  • East of Arlesey (around 2000 homes)
  • Limited extensions to other settlements
  • A1 Corridor – Biggleswade South (around 40 hectares for employment)

Area B – East/A1 Corridor


Potential for all levels of growth, including new settlements, if appropriate supporting infrastructure is provided.

The broad corridor running south-north from Arlesey to the north of Sandy is well served in transport terms with the A1 and East Coast railway, both of which have potential for significant upgrades.

Growth Potential:

New development will need to provide for jobs growth in order to try and reduce out commuting and to generate investment to benefit town centres and improve local services. At Sandy in particular, there is potential to benefit from the East West Rail proposals and to attract business and housing growth along the Oxford to Cambridge corridor. This area has the potential to accommodate major growth providing it can be planned sustainably and generates clear benefits for existing communities. 


The Greensand Ridge Nature Improvement Area (NIA) and Ivel Valley and their valued habitats are existing environmental assets. There are also opportunities for new environmental projects, including a new Country Park for Arlesey and Stotfold, a long distance 'Great North Cycleway', and access and open space networks around Biggleswade, Sandy, and the Arlesey, Stotfold and Fairfield areas.

Area C – East-West

7.6.10 The opportunities in this area are related to the proposed future strategic infrastructure investment including East-West Rail and the Expressway. This strategy supports the proposed East-West rail route and the Oxford-Cambridge Expressway and in turn the National Infrastructure Commission's central finding that the Oxford-Cambridge area which runs through Central Bedfordshire provides a 'once in a generation opportunity' to be the UK's Silicon Valley, delivering growth in science, technology and innovation[10].

7.6.11 When delivered, these will strongly support the development potential of large sites in the Marston Vale and to the west, close to Milton Keynes.

7.6.12 The consultation and evidence told us that villages around Woburn including Aspley Guise must be protected due to their unique character, heritage assets and natural environment. There is however some potential north of the railway line in an area known as the Aspley Guise Triangle for mixed use development in the form of villages linking in with the planned development of Milton Keynes. This would however need to be extensively buffered with new Green Belt to avoid coalescence and harm to the character of the existing settlements and can not come forward until the route of the Expressway has been finalised. 

7.6.13 There is also some potential in the Marston Vale for a series of linked villages and this had some support if existing communities were protected from coalescence by important countryside gaps or new Green Belt; and if in addition there were new facilities and significant new green infrastructure and leisure proposals that could also benefit existing communities like Brogborough and Marston Moretaine.

7.6.14 The Growth Locations being considered in this area are:

  • Marston Vale New Villages (around 5000 homes) plus a business park
  • Aspley Guise New Villages (North of Railway Line) (around 3000 homes)
  • Wixams Southern Extension (around 500 homes)
  • Limited extensions to other settlements
  • M1 Junction 13 (around 40 hectares for employment)

Area C – East/West Corridor


Limited potential small scale growth for existing settlements. Potential for medium up to strategic scale growth including new settlements subject to investment in infrastructure and viability of sites at this scale.

The north of Central Bedfordshire is an important economic area with advanced research and development at Cranfield Technology Park and Millbrook Proving Ground and close links with Milton Keynes. The area is well connected with the improved A421, and the M1 and the planned section upgrade for East West Rail between Oxford and Bedford.

Growth Potential:

With the right infrastructure investment, this area may be able to accommodate significant growth, potentially in the form of new settlements but the timing and commitment of further transport investment will be crucial. Many of the smaller settlements have already grown significantly over the past few years.


Much of the landscape has been restored and the Forest of Marston Vale is an important asset. Extending the Forest of Marston Vale and the potential Bedford to Milton Keynes canal are strategic scale environmental projects in this area.

Area D – Central

7.6.15 The settlement pattern and constrained infrastructure severely limit the options for growth in area D. There is scope for some small and medium scale sites but these will not be presented as allocations until the pre-submission version of the plan is published in autumn 2017.

7.6.16 This area has had a large number of recent permissions as a result of speculative development. This has led to piecemeal development which does not allow an holistic approach to the delivery of new services and infrastructure. 

7.6.17 The Sustainability Appraisal and the Transport modelling evidence tells us that there is limited scope for growth in this area due to limited capacity on the network, particularly along the A507 as result of incremental growth of existing settlements.

7.6.18 Mixed use development is proposed at RAF Henlow and the growth in villages will be comprised of individual sites of less than 250 homes.

7.6.19 The Growth Locations being considered in this area are:

  • Limited extensions to other settlements
  • RAF Henlow  (Mixed employment Uses)

Area D – Central Section


Potential for limited small to medium scale growth. The central part of Central Bedfordshire is characterised by market towns and villages linked by rural roads and the potential to upgrade infrastructure such as roads is likely to be limited.

Growth Potential:

Any growth is likely to be of a small to medium scale and will be focused around settlements which have good services and suitable sites.


The area includes parts of the Greensand Ridge Nature Improvement Area (NIA) with its valued habitat networks. There is the opportunity for creating new environmental projects, such as a long distance cycleway along the Greensand Ridge.

(127) 7.7 Growth Strategy

7.7.1 The options for employment, housing, and mixed use development at the growth locations set out in Policy SP1 below are subject to the findings of more detailed assessment and compliance with any site specific infrastructure requirements or mitigation identified. The options for strategic growth locations have been selected having regard to their overall sustainability based on the evidence presented in the Growth Options Studies for the Luton HMA and the North of Central Bedfordshire, technical site assessment work, the Sustainability Appraisal, transport modelling and other technical evidence studies.

7.7.2 In the next version of the plan, it is likely that a certain level of growth will be planned for as a contingency if sites allocated fail to come forward as scheduled in our phasing plans. This will ensure delivery throughout the plan period and in particular will ensure that the Council can maintain a rolling five year housing supply.

7.7.3 It is also clear that the full identified net capacity of growth locations is shown in the area summaries. For those strategic sites that require significant enabling infrastructure to come forward it is likely that it will not be achievable for them to be built out within the twenty year plan period. Therefore in some cases, only a proportion of the overall capacity figure will count towards the plan target for housing.

(167) Policy SP1: Growth Strategy

A minimum of 20,000 additional new homes will be delivered and a minimum of 24,000 new jobs between 2015 and 2035 (c.23,000 homes are existing commitments). The Council will also continue to support the delivery of the existing committed sites.

In addition to the existing committed sites, development will also be brought forward through Neighbourhood Plans, and through medium and small scale sites in Areas B, C & D that will be set out in the pre-submission version of the plan.

Subject to further assessment of sustainability and deliverability, new development will be planned for at a selection of the following locations:

Area A

  • North of Luton (Town Extension)
  • West of Luton (Town Extension)
  • Inset Green Belt Villages (Village Extensions)
  • M1 Junction 11a – Strategic Employment Area

Area B

  • Tempsford New Settlement  (New market town)
  • East of Biggleswade (New Villages)
  • East of Arlesey  (Town Extension)
  • A1 Corridor – Biggleswade South - Strategic Employment Area 

Area C

  • Marston Vale New Settlement (New Villages)
  • Aspley Guise (North of Railway Line) (New Villages)
  • Wixams Southern Extension (Town Extension)
  • M1 Junction 13 – Strategic Employment Area

Area D

  • RAF Henlow (Mixed Use Employment)

Planning applications for piecemeal development that prejudices the delivery of growth locations set out in this policy will be refused.

(24) 7.8 Small & Medium Sites

7.8.1 This version of the plan only looks at key growth location options. In the main these are of a strategic scale except for the collective growth that is proposed through limited extensions to large villages and towns inset into the Green Belt (Area A). This is highlighted in this version of the Plan as is integral to the Council's approach to development in the Green Belt as part of the overall spatial strategy.

7.8.2 Outside of Green Belt, small and medium sites have not been identified or given an indicative capacity in this version of the plan. The initial site assessment work that has been undertaken demonstrates that there is some capacity within the rural area for new homes in Areas C-D. This does not however factor in the cumulative impact of smaller scale sites in individual settlements, where there are multiple sites. The balance between small and medium sites will also depend on the number of strategic sites that are carried forward into the next version of the plan as draft allocations.

7.8.3 The locations of these sites will be directed by the overall spatial strategy outlined in this section and also with reference to public consultation and engagement, and technical evidence, including the Sustainability Appraisal and the Settlement Capacity Study.

(26) 7.9 Neighbourhood Planning

7.9.1 Neighbourhood Planning is a new way of allowing neighbourhoods to have a say in the statutory land use planning of their own areas. The Council is supportive of Neighbourhood Plans and support will be given to those communities who choose to produce a Neighbourhood Plan.

7.9.2 Neighbourhood Planning must arise from the community, with individuals and groups working in partnership with local businesses, developers and landowners in the area, to deliver sustainable development to meet the community's needs for the future.

7.9.3 There are two 'tools' for neighbourhood planning that may be produced;

  • neighbourhood plans which may allocate land outside of Green Belt for development and/or include policies against which planning applications are judged,
  • neighbourhood development orders which can grant planning permission for a specific type of development.

Neighbourhood Plan Areas Outside of Green Belt

7.9.4 When proposing allocations, a robust assessment of all alternative sites available will be required to show that the most sustainable locations have been selected. The status of allocations made through the neighbourhood planning process is in effect, the same as if made by the Council through a site allocations development plan document because Neighbourhood Plans become part of the formal development plan for Central Bedfordshire, upon adoption.

Neighbourhood Plan Areas in Green Belt

7.9.5 Neighbourhood Plans cannot however allocate land for development in the Green Belt as changes to the Green Belt can only be made through a review of the Local Plan. Instead they can include aspirations for the future, which may include a recommendation that the Green Belt boundary is altered to allow for a specific development in a future Local Plan Review.

Delivering Homes through Neighbourhood Plans

7.9.6 In view of the fact that the progress of Neighbourhood Plans is outside of the control and jurisdiction of the Council, no specific target for the delivery of new homes has been attributed to Neighbourhood Plans. Therefore any new homes delivered through neighbourhood plans in addition to the small and medium sites proposed in the next draft of the Plan, will effectively be treated as 'windfall'.

(25) 7.10 Housing Target

Table 7.1: Commitments at 1st April 2017

Type of commitment

Number of dwellings expected during the plan period

Completions since April 2015


Existing allocations


Strategic sites (with planning permission)


Large windfall (with planning permission)


Small windfall (with planning permission)


Windfall allowance (five year supply period only)




7.10.1 The table above sets out the amount of housing which is already allocated by a previous development plan or benefits from planning permission. These are called dwelling commitments and they are expected to deliver 23,138 dwellings during the 2015-2035 plan period. A breakdown of all these commitments can be found in the Housing Trajectory (April 2017).

7.10.2 In addition to the above commitments, evidence set out in the Windfall Topic Paper demonstrates that there is sufficient compelling evidence to justify the addition of an annual windfall allowance throughout the time period of the Plan. If the Council chooses to include an allowance for windfall it will be important to ensure that the figures are robust and achievable and take account of other identified housing delivery. If an allowance is not made then it is expected that windfall will provide a large annual contingency.

(71) 7.11 Summary of Housing Growth in Central Bedfordshire 2015-2035

Table 7.2: Housing Need & Delivery

a) CBC Housing Need (SHMA Draft Update)


b) Unmet Need from Luton


c) Committed sites


d) Contingency (10% uplift) on (a)


e) Contingency 20% uplift on (a)


f) Contingency 20% uplift on (a + b + e)


New Allocations 2015-2035 (Lower end of range) (a + b + d) – (c)


New Allocations 2015-2035 (Upper end of range) (a + b + e + f) – (c)


Lower end of Range Total planned housing delivery 2015-35


Upper end of Range Total planned housing delivery 2015-35


Table 7.3: New Jobs

Existing Sites and new Mixed Use Allocations


B8 Strategic Allocation – M1 Junction 11a


B8 Strategic Allocation – M1 Junction 13


B8 Strategic Allocation – A1 Junction 11


Total Planned Jobs delivery 2015-35


(7) 7.12 Presumption in Favour of Sustainable Development

National Planning Policy Framework

7.12.1 In March 2012, the Government published the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). The NPPF sets out the Government's planning policies for England and how these should be applied. The NPPF requires that Local Plans are prepared with the objective of contributing to the achievement of sustainable development. Local Plans must, therefore, be consistent with the principles and policies of the Framework, including the presumption in favour of sustainable development.

(19) Policy SP2: National Planning Policy Framework - Presumption in Favour of Sustainable Development

When considering development proposals the Council will take a positive approach that reflects the presumption in favour of sustainable development contained in the National Planning Policy Framework.

Planning applications that accord with the policies in this Local Plan (and, where relevant, with polices in neighbourhood plans) will be approved unless material considerations indicate otherwise.

Where relevant policies are out of date at the time of making the decision then the Council will grant permission unless material considerations indicate otherwise; taking into account whether any adverse impacts of granting permission would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policies in the National Planning Policy Framework taken as a whole; or specific policies in that Framework indicate that development should be restricted.

[6] National Infrastructure Commission Interim Report on Cambridge – Oxford Corridor, November 2016

[7] Footloose employment is that which is not tied to a particular location but is often located along strategic transportation corridors.

[8] Figures have been rounded for the purposes of providing a clearly defined range – see Table 7.2 for exact figures. Figures do not include existing commitments.

[9] The National Planning Policy Framework 2012, Paragraph 83

[10] National Infrastructure Commission Interim Report, November 2016

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