Central Bedfordshire Draft Local Plan (July 2017)
5.1.1 The Sustainability Appraisal (SA) has been used to support the strategy in this initial draft of the plan by undertaking the following:
- A high level appraisal of the patterns of distribution (new small & town scale settlements; village extensions; growth in transport corridors; urban extensions; urban intensifications around transport hubs; and higher densities);
- A high level appraisal of Areas A-D (as set out in the Shaping Central Bedfordshire consultation);
- An appraisal of five growth scenarios, using reasonable strategic growth locations; and
- An appraisal of the draft plan policies
- Scenario 1: Higher levels of growth across all of Central Bedfordshire (the growth location options presented in this Plan);
- Scenario 2: No growth to the west of Luton and east of Biggleswade;
- Scenario 3: No strategic transport infrastructure delivered in the A1 corridor (Area B);
- Scenario 4: No growth in the Green Belt (Area A); and
- Scenario 5: A mixed approach with higher growth in villages.
5.1.3 The SA makes a comparison of each against the baseline conditions in Central Bedfordshire and the results of this have guided the strategy. This draft plan proposes a minimum of 20,000 new homes across Central Bedfordshire, using a range of distribution approaches across all four areas. This mixed approach, as per Scenario 1, aims to avoid or minimise significant negative effects and promote the likely positive effects of growth. The high level of growth offered in Scenario 1, including the provision of new settlements which have the scale and scope for exemplar design and higher densities, will deliver major positive effects for housing and employment. Large scale new development will be more contained, reducing the need to travel and will offer the opportunity for investment and improvement of social, green and modal infrastructure.
5.1.4 The SA supports growth in Areas A, B and C as having positive effects on housing delivery and employment. Area C is well-connected with the improved A421, the M1 and the planned section upgrade for East West Rail. Growth in Area B would support the East-West connections delivered by East West Rail and the Expressway; therefore Scenario 3 is not preferred. The Spatial Strategy contains options for new villages and urban extensions along the A1 corridor in Area B and near to the M1 in Area A and C. Across Areas A, B and C there is the potential for development to contribute to improvements of the road and public transport networks, to ensure continuing capacity.
5.1.5 The SA found that restricting growth of housing and employment uses in Area A due to the Green Belt, as considered in Scenario 4 is likely to have negative effects for the needs and health of communities in that part of CBC as well as the cross-boundary needs of Luton Borough. Without growth in Area A, communities would not benefit from the potential revitalisation that new development can provide. Area A has areas of higher deprivation, which new growth could have the potential for major positive effects.
5.1.6 The Spatial Strategy in this Plan contains options for urban extensions around Luton in Area A. There will be some positive effects on accessibility to services and facilities across all areas. In Area A, principally the Green Belt, larger scale developments have potential due to major opportunities to promote sustainable transport, for example using the Busway. The Spatial Strategy includes options for concentrating moderate growth in the rail corridor between Luton & Flitwick, therefore promoting sustainable development in an area constrained by Green Belt.
5.1.7 Less significant positive effects relate to Area D which is characterised by market towns and villages linked by rural roads. In Area D the appraisal supports growth of small to medium scale, and focused around settlements with existing good services, to minimise negative effects from the need to travel by car. The spatial strategy therefore limits growth in Area D to village extensions, and the proposal for higher growth in villages as per Scenario 5 is not preferred.
5.1.8 Across Central Bedfordshire, providing higher levels of growth is likely to place more pressures on the capacity of infrastructure, but these pressures may be mitigated by the provision of new settlements and/or urban extensions, with the scale & scope for exemplar design, especially for sustainable energy and water; landscape and the potential enhancement of Green Infrastructure. Larger developments can be creative in scope and design offering enhancements to both existing and new communities with major positive effects.
5.1.9 Detailed transport improvement studies are required to identify appropriate mitigating schemes to any negative effects on highways. Higher growth can offer opportunities for supporting a modal shift in transport and new settlements of the scale and scope proposed could contribute to highways and sustainable transport improvements that could benefit wider areas of CBC and beyond. The potential negative effects of growth can be mitigated with the support of the development management policies, which protect the natural environment and promote sustainable, connected communities through requirements for appropriate provision of supporting infrastructure. Further mitigation measures will be developed and refined as specific site allocation options are evaluated.
5.2.1 Central Bedfordshire undertook Transport Modelling to determine the transport impacts of growth on road network performance. The key findings of this study are:
- All growth scenarios show stress on the road network across Central Bedfordshire. Points of stress vary according to the locations and amount of growth being considered.
- A "No Local Plan" scenario, which tested the impact of all non Local Plan related changes, including committed planned growth and infrastructure schemes to 2035, also shows stress on the road network and provides a useful starting point for understanding change in traffic conditions.
- In total twenty 'hot spots' are identified across Central Bedfordshire, following analysis of the Local Plan growth scenarios. Hotspots indicate roads or junctions where changes to traffic conditions would occur in addition to the "No Local Plan" scenario. Not all hotspots suffer from worsening conditions; in some places conditions are stable or improved.
- Certain hotspots reoccur, indicating a traffic condition that would require mitigation in any growth scenario. For example, the A507 shows worsening or neutral conditions having a high impact on road users. The Council's Preferred Approach allocates small scale village extensions in Area D for this reason.
- On average, speeds across Central Bedfordshire and Luton are higher in the evening (PM) peak than in the morning (AM), indicating that traffic flows are travelling faster in the evening peak hour. Additional growth in the Local Plan scenarios causes some reduction to average speeds.
5.2.2 The modelling demonstrates that if certain key transport infrastructure schemes are delivered within the Plan period (i.e. the Expressway, Black Cat Improvements, A1 improvements and the Central Section of East West Rail) the average travel speed increases and therefore worsening hotspots are improved. This highlights the importance of road and rail investment in supporting the neutral or positive impacts of development and the importance of these particular schemes in supporting CBC in delivering their growth in Areas B and C.
5.3.1 Central Bedfordshire Council undertook two Growth Options Studies in order to identify appropriate locations across the area to deliver strategic level growth. The purpose of the two studies was to establish spatial patterns and inform the spatial strategy and distribution of development for the plan.
5.3.2 The Key findings of the studies are:
- Whilst Central Bedfordshire has a strong supply of land that has the potential to deliver growth, there are a number of constraints that exist, such as the Green Belt in the south and limited east/west connectivity and sustainable transport in the north, which can only be overcome through clear policy direction and significant infrastructure investment.
- There are a number of potential large strategic sites across the area that would require significant developer contributions in order to be delivered and to be considered sustainable i.e. a dedicated bus link to an existing rail station or in the case of the largest developments, new, large scale infrastructure such as new rail stations or highway/junction improvements may be required.
- Transport investment will be required in order to develop a more balanced spatial strategy and to unlock and release land to accommodate growth. Such investment and infrastructure takes time to deliver and resulting growth may therefore not be possible until the second half of the plan period.
- It will be necessary to consider delivery trajectories such that development where existing infrastructure and employment exists is more likely to be delivered in the earlier part of the plan period.
- It will be necessary to release land from the Green Belt in order to ensure the delivery of sustainable development across Central Bedfordshire as a whole. However, it may be possible to replace Green Belt elsewhere within Central Bedfordshire in order to off-set that which is released.
- a new settlement;
- a village extension;
- growth in a transport corridor;
- an urban extension; or
- an urban intensification or extension centred around a transport hub.
5.3.4 Figure 5.1 below is based on the four areas defined by CBC for the purposes of consultation during the summer of 2016 (Areas A, B, C and D) and illustrates the five core components:
- The potential for urban extensions around Luton – these could contribute to meeting unmet need arising from Luton.
- Growth in the rail corridor between Luton and Flitwick – concentrating growth along key transport corridors, promoting sustainable development in an area that has seen little growth due to Green Belt restrictions.
- Growth in the western area of Central Bedfordshire – will require significant infrastructure provision and a balanced approach to growth so as not to concentrate development to the west of Central Bedfordshire.
- Minor village extensions within Area D – limited growth due to the very rural nature of the area and limited capacity for significant sustainable transportation infrastructure
- Growth along the A1 corridor – will require significant infrastructure provision to unlock the potential, provide balanced growth and help promote the eastern area of Central Bedfordshire.
Figure 5.1: Five Spatial Themes from the Growth Options Studies