Central Bedfordshire Pre-submission Local Plan (January 2018)
5.1.1 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 Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford Arc which will receive significant additional investment in strategic infrastructure. This presents major potential for improved connectivity and growth within Central Bedfordshire, for continued strategic joint working with neighbouring authorities to help realise enhanced growth opportunities identified within the NIC Report, and to help meet housing need in constrained neighbouring areas such as Luton.
5.1.2 Alongside this wider context, however much of Central Bedfordshire is characterised by small scale communities where infrastructure and services are limited and whose rural or semi rural setting is often of high environmental value. The goal of this strategy is to grow existing communities within a sustainability driven approach so that they benefit 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.
5.1.3 The overall 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.
5.1.4 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. Within this figure, around 6000 jobs will be delivered to meet 'footloose ' strategic warehousing (B8 uses) on three major strategic employment sites.
5.1.5 To meet our statutory requirements and to serve the interests of our communities, the local plan proposes delivery of a 39,350 new homes. However the plan additionally provides for further consideration of strategic growth and proposes a Partial Review to further assess potential in the East West and A1/East Coast Main Line corridors as new infrastructure as new infrastructure is committed. This will consider the potential for delivering a greater number of homes and the timescale in which they could be delivered (either in years 10-15 of this Plan period or in the next Plan period) depending on strategic infrastructure routing and timing, wider delivery support and sustainability and market factors. Further details of the proposed Partial Review are set out at section 5.5.
- To grow existing communities across Central Bedfordshire, proportionate to their scale and environmental context, so that they are more sustainable through improved services, facilities and employment opportunities, leading to reduced travelling and outflows. In smaller settlements this will continue use of the Council's Settlement Envelope policy which has been successful in directing development onto previously developed or vacant land.
- To create additional environmental enhancement for example by extending the Forest of Marston Vale and enabling a section of the Milton Keynes to Bedford waterway.
- To help meet the major housing need of Luton, which is highly constrained by its boundary, as well as that from the south of Central Bedfordshire. This is principally through urban extension from the Luton, Dunstable and Houghton Regis conurbation boundary and also using opportunities to increase the capacity of sites identified within the conurbation by increasing their density, as identified in a recent urban capacity study.
- To develop additional growth opportunities around existing and committed transport hubs, through urban intensification, and on previously developed land - Central Bedfordshire's good access to strategic transport routes creates potential for higher density and more sustainable growth around existing key hubs. Undeveloped brownfield sites are limited but the Council is committed to maximising the use of available land within settlements (as with the Market Towns Regeneration Fund) and realising new brownfield opportunities like former airfields as at RAF Henlow).
- To develop current strategic growth opportunities with a good potential for more sustainable development to a level which can be supported by existing and committed strategic infrastructure together with developer and public funding. This would include for example Marston Vale and East of Arlesey.
- To identify further opportunities for Strategic Growth in a Partial Plan Review to link with further work on the Cambridge-Milton Keynes- Oxford Arc, East-West Rail, the Expressway, the expansion of Luton Airport and A1 upgrades through Central Bedfordshire as set out below and the area marked on the Key Diagram. This would include further assessment of strategic growth locations at Tempsford, the Aspley Triangle, West of Luton and for additional growth to the East of Biggleswade.
5.3.1 This strategy aims to balance wider delivery and sustainability considerations within this overall approach:
- 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.
- A balance between more moderate development around existing towns and villages and large new settlements, recognising that an entirely new community takes longer to deliver and needs entirely new services.
- Green Belt continues to be a constraint in the south of the area but there is a strong case for alterations to green belt boundaries immediately adjoining Luton so that a good proportion of unmet housing need from Luton and Dunstable can be met close to where it arises;
- A balance between growth in the north and south of the area supported by evidence in the Sustainability Appraisal (SA). In addition to alleviating the cumulative impact of development on the north by distributing the growth more evenly, the SA also supports growth in the south by virtue of the clear positive effects on social sustainability as a result of regenerating areas with higher levels of social deprivation.
This Plan seeks to:
- Build on our existing and emerging economic strengths in key sectors and deliver a minimum of 24,000 new jobs.
- Deliver around 39,350 new homes through new villages, moderate extensions to existing towns and villages 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). This includes 23,528 homes that are already planned for or built.
- 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 through the identification of Important Countryside Gaps.
- Maximise potential opportunities for the intensification and redevelopment e.g. 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 across the corridor including through a Partial Plan Review.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.
- Ensure that growth is designed and delivered in ways which benefit existing neighbouring communities, for example through improved transport facilities or regeneration of local commercial facilities;
- 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 be through a strategic extension close to Luton's urban edge and 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.
5.5.1 Central Bedfordshire will play a core role in relation to the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford Arc and in particular on the intersection of the corridor with the key national north-south rail and road networks. As is indicated in the recent National Infrastructure Commission reports, and the Government's response in Budget 2017, the area is acknowledged to be of great economic importance nationally and is likely to experience major ongoing pressures for growth. While Government has made commitments to new strategic road and rail infrastructure, the timing, service and route selection for those investments still needs further development and definition while related issues such as potential for capacity upgrades of the A1 have still to be resolved. These decisions, for example on new east-west rail stations, will have a major impact on the location, scale of development and wider potential of strategic growth sites in Central Bedfordshire.
5.5.2 The Council has already undertaken a number of studies to help prepare for possible future growth which would realise some of the potential outlined by the National Infrastructure Commission. This Plan includes firm commitment to some strategic locations where there is a strong existing infrastructure base, such as Marston Vale, to a level of growth which can be supported by that together with firmly committed or achievable additional infrastructure. However in other cases, such as the East West Rail new line to Cambridge, further decisions on routeing, timing and commitment, as well as wider investment and delivery support are required before firm allocations can be made.
5.5.3 The Council is therefore putting in hand a further assessment of the Identified Areas for Future Growth (see section 7.9) to look at the potential of strategic sites on the East West Rail/Expressway and the A1/East Coast Main Line Corridor routes in line with emerging decisions on this strategic infrastructure. This will enable further growth potential to be looked at in line with decisions to be taken on routes, timing and services, together with provision of wider infrastructure and delivery support. This assessment will inform a Partial Review of this Plan and will contribute to the ongoing work in the Central Corridor Area. The Partial Review will look at an improved evidence base on issues where work is ongoing and in particular at capacity for and deliverability of further growth on the strategic sites. It will consider whether there is delivery potential for years 15-20 (2030-2035) for the current Plan period or whether this would fall in the next Plan period, given long lead times for these large sites. It will look at 3 scenarios for growth:
- Base scenario – The strategic site allocations proposed in this plan as set out in Section 7, based on current and firmly committed strategic infrastructure and delivery support;
- Medium growth – Growth potential if some but not all strategic infrastructure is delivered, for example if provision of East West Rail Bedford to Cambridge is delayed to 2030 or later or if no major upgrade to the A1 is committed;
- High growth - Growth potential if strategic infrastructure delivered by 2025-30, improved viability and with a high level of local and developer funded infrastructure. For example firm commitment to a new station at Sandy to interchange with East-West Rail, Bedford to Cambridge would fit with this scenario.
5.5.4 The Partial Review is proposed to start within six months of adoption of this Plan and complete as soon as decisions on routeing and financial commitment to strategic infrastructure are in place.