Government requires Local Authorities to produce plans for sustainable growth. The National Planning Policy Framework sets out Government planning policy and how it is expected to be applied. There are 3 mutually dependent components of plans for sustainable growth:
- an Economic component; the provision of land and infrastructure to support employment growth
- a Social component; the creation of a built environment that reflects peoples’ requirements, and supports their health, social and cultural wellbeing
- an Environmental component; the protection of the natural and historic environment, the prudent use of resources, the minimisation of waste and pollution, and the use of Green Belts to prevent urban sprawl
Central Bedfordshire Council plans to build 31000 houses and 2 major roads by 2031. Houses and roads will be built on 5 square miles of Green Belt countryside. The major Housing Developments in South Central Bedfordshire will be at:
We have examined Central Bedfordshire Council’s Development Strategy and conclude the development set out in the plan is unsustainable and the magnitude of Green Belt loss unacceptable.
The requirement of 31000 houses exceeds the population growth requirements of Central Bedfordshire. We estimate 55% of the planned housing is for people migrating into Central Bedfordshire. This level of migration increases countryside loss and harms the natural environment.
Migration coupled with insufficient jobs growth increases levels of commuting into and out of Central Bedfordshire. Commuting causes congestion and, climate changing and polluting vehicle emissions. All are detrimental to people’s health, and social and cultural wellbeing.
The affordability and tenure of planned housing does not meet the needs of people of Central Bedfordshire. Failure to meet these needs causes overcrowding of existing housing, and disrupts family support structures.
The planned qualities of new built environments for example renewable energy installations, drainage systems, recreation areas and green spaces, landscape impact mitigations and places to shop are unlikely to be realised.
Meeting the population growth needs of Central Bedfordshire alone requires less housing than what is planned, and less employment, transport infrastructure, and land. Less housing reduces the adverse impacts of migration upon people, services, and the natural and built environments.
Pressures to meet the housing requirements of migrants can be reduced by changes to Government policy. Policy should encourage Local Authorities to build higher density affordable housing within their own boundaries at existing urban locations and on Brownfield sites. Policy should also encourage development at locations where there is the greatest need for quality housing and stable employment.
Central Bedfordshire’s growing population does require sufficient housing and employment to support it. However plans to exceed these requirements fail to recognise the damage they will cause to the benefits of living in high quality housing in a congestion free and tranquil rural setting. Unemployment in Central Bedfordshire is low and the employment needs and expectations of the highly qualified people living there are not being met.
A better plan for Central Bedfordshire should prioritise employment growth over housing growth and shift employment provision away form retailing and warehousing to professional services, new technology industries and a rural economy.