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Bedford Borough Council Executive Considers Local Plan for Consultation

Next week, Bedford Borough Council will consider the Local Plan 2040 for its next and final stage of consultation.

The Council has a legal responsibility to set Local Plans, deciding where growth and development will take place in Bedford Borough in future years; from homes and jobs to schools and infrastructure.

Following changes to national policies and the setting of new housing targets by the Government, the Local Plan 2040 is an update of the recently agreed Local Plan 2030, which was adopted in 2020. The majority of the existing planning policies are still up to date and do not need to change. The Local Plan 2040 therefore focuses mainly on a strategy to guide housing and employment growth to meet the government’s targets, and the infrastructure needed to support it.

It also updates planning policies where these have developed since the 2030 Local Plan was written; these include those to do with climate change, environmental quality, the town centre, affordable housing and self and custom build homes.

The Council is legally obliged to plan for a set number of homes every year. New affordability data published by the Government in March 2022 has seen an increase of 40% in the number of homes that must be planned for in Bedford Borough – to 1,355 per year to 2040.

Whilst there are still areas of uncertainty around national plans which impact the Borough, including the Oxford – Cambridge Arc and the precise route for East West Rail, the Council is legally obliged to submit an updated Local Plan by January 2023.

The Plan’s Strategy focuses new development first in the urban area, including suitable, previously developed ‘brownfield’ sites.

The Plan then focuses on growth based around rail, taking advantage of the opportunity to enable people to live and travel sustainably. This includes two new settlements close to two new rail stations on the proposed East West Rail line at the former brickworks at Kempston Hardwick, and at Little Barford to the east of the Borough, where the East West Rail line is planned to cross the East Coast Main Line.

Other development sites are allocated south of Bedford, where new sustainable connections to existing or planned rail stations at Kempston Hardwick and Wixams, and to nearby Bedford, can be achieved.

The Local Plan 2040 also focuses on ensuring that new development brings with it new infrastructure, including green infrastructure. Development will help to bring forward the new watersports lake at Bedford River Valley Park to the east of Bedford, the Bedford to Milton Keynes Waterway Park to the west of the town and to further progress the Forest of Marston Vale.

This Plan also focuses on encouraging high-skilled employment opportunities alongside housing development, with up to 26,700 jobs planned at a number of sites across the borough. These employment sites are being allocated where they have good connectivity, including by rail, along the A421 corridor and the A1 close to the Black Cat Roundabout.

The Town Centre is also part of this Local Plan, recognising the challenge town centres face. Through the Heritage Action Zone, the Town Deal and recent investment in our High Street the Council is proactively working to support our town centre. This Local Plan recognises that work, and proposes policies that would permit more residential properties in the town centre to help support existing and new town centre businesses.

Mayor Dave Hodgson said “Officers have worked really hard to bring together a Local Plan that is ambitious for the future of Bedford Borough, and one that reflects previous consultation responses, the requirements of Government, and the national picture.

“We have focused growth on brownfield sites in the urban area first, then at new settlements and other developments based around existing and proposed rail networks; helping people to live, work and enjoy their leisure time in a sustainable way.

“Beyond homes, this plan looks at jobs, infrastructure, our town centre, leisure, and policies around climate change, setting out a vision for Bedford Borough with sustainability at its heart.

“If approved by the Executive next week, the consultation this summer will be third on this Local Plan, and the final one before the plan is submitted to Government in January 2023.”