Houghton Regis North Planning Applications

As you will be aware a Planning Inspector examined the Council’s Development Strategy and concluded the Council failed in its duty to cooperate with a neighbour. On the 16th June 2015 at a hearing a judge ‘threw out’ the Council’s request for a Judicial Review of this decision on the grounds the Government had ‘no case to answer’. Currently the Council does not have an approved Development Strategy.

The Council’s Development Strategy contains all of the 5 sites listed;

  1. Thorn Turn development of 4.5 hectares of B2-B8 uses with ancillary offices (CB/15/01928/REG3)
  2. Windy Willows Nursery site Sundon Road (CB/15/03057/OUT)
  3. Land adjacent to the Old Red Lion Bedford Road (CB/14/03047/OUT)
  4. Land at Bedford Road (CB/14/03056/FULL)
  5. Land West of Bidwell HRN2 (CB/15/00297/OUT)

The National Planning Policy Framework, paragraph 83, says local planning authorities with Green Belts in their area should establish Green Belt boundaries in their Local Plan (Development Strategy) which set the framework for Green Belt and settlement policy’. The soundness of the Council’s policy for changing the boundaries of its Green Belt is accepted when the Council’s Development Strategy is approved by a Planning Inspector or the Secretary of State.

The National Planning Policy Framework, paragraph 87, says ‘As with previous Green Belt policy, inappropriate development is, by definition harmful to the Green Belt and should not be approved except in very special circumstances’. There are many examples of planning applications for housing developments within the Green Belt being refused because they are inappropriate and harm the Green Belt.

The planning application to develop land west of Bidwell (HRN2) is supported by a ‘Statement of Very Special Circumstances’. The Council does not have a policy that explains what very special circumstances justify changing Green Belt boundaries to accommodate a development site. The Council’s ‘Policy 36: Development within the Green Belt’ stipulates a presumption against inappropriate development. It states new buildings are regarded as inappropriate except in very special circumstances. The Policy does not explain what very special circumstances justify building within the Green Belt. The policy is clearly only concerned with permitting small scale development in very special circumstances.

The proposed HRN2 site is within the Green Belt and the plan is to provide new buildings on this site. Planning permission for the site should be refused on the grounds the development is inappropriate and contrary to the Council’s ‘Policy 36: Development within the Green Belt’. All development sites are within The Green Belt. Sites 1, 3, 4, and 5 are contiguous. HN2 by itself comprises 1850 houses therefore planning permission for each site should be refused for the same reason as HN2 and because the scale of their cumulative impact is inappropriate.

The approval of individual planning applications for Houghton Regis North sites is unwelcome as they represent the incremental implementation of this Strategic Allocation. This allocation together with the Luton North Strategic Allocation means the cumulative economic, environmental, and social impacts of all sites within them and across the remainder of South Central Bedfordshire and Luton are not being properly considered.

The Council’s failure to produce a sound strategy and then pursue a costly application for a Judicial Review despite clear Government advice calls into question the Council’s plan making competence and therefore the presumption its Development Strategy is sound and sustainable.