The scale and location of CBC proposal for the 2,000 homes East of Arlesey in the Central Bedfordshire Council (CBC) Draft Local Plan is not justified, say the inspectors in their initial comments on the Plan. They add that they fear that coalescence between Fairfield and Arlesey could occur by default
In a lengthy, first, response to Central Bedfordshire Council, the Inspectors, Mr Birkenshaw and Mrs Hockenhull, say they have serious concerns regarding the East of Arlesey proposals.
In a CBC holding response to the letter, planners have replied: “we understand you are concerned that the growth proposed for Arlesey will result in over-development and coalescence with Fairfield.”
CBC are now going to prepare a technical document in full response. However, it is likely that further consultation will have to be carried out on this. It also looks likely that the Inquiry will have to be reconvened, possibly in June 2020, to hear more evidence and allow further representations.
In their detailed letter, the Inspectors write:
East of Arlesey – Policy SA3
- The Settlement Capacity Initial Study concludes that Arlesey has Medium- High capacity for growth and that development could contribute to the enhancement of new services and facilities. Development to the east of the town also allows for the provision of a new link-road to relieve congestion on High Street. In principle therefore, the strategy of extending Arlesey is appropriate.
- However, Arlesey is ‘Minor Service Centre’ with roughly 2,470 dwellings. In contrast, Policy SA3 allocates up to 2,000 dwellings on over 200 hectares of land. A further 1,000 dwellings are also committed on land to the north of Policy SA3, with around 90 dwellings proposed on land off High Street. In total, the level of growth planned for Arlesey would more than double the size of the town. We therefore fail to understand how Policy SA3 would meet one of the Plan’s Key Spatial Objectives to grow existing communities across Central Bedfordshire “…proportionate to their scale and environment context”.
- Furthermore, due to its size, Policy SA3 extends all the way up to Fairfield to the east. With the exception of a single, square parcel of land, the settlement boundaries of Arlesey and Fairfield would coalesce and adjoin one another. Although Policy SA3 requires the provision of a country park to provide some separation, formalising the use of the open space between Arlesey and Fairfield would be very different to the existing situation, with the two urban areas separated by fields. There is a risk that the country park could become actively used as an open space linking Fairfield and Arlesey, not separating them.
- In summary therefore, we have concerns regarding the level of growth proposed in Arlesey and the effect that this would have on its character, identity and potential for visual and physical coalescence with Fairfield. As submitted, the scale and location of development is not justified.