It often feels like the majority of the last twelve months has been preoccupied with nothing else but the governments housing white paper. It has taken considerably longer to arrive than we were anticipating and when it did arrive it has had a mixed reception. On the advice of DCLG, CBC to put on hold our Local Plan, but this document remains focussed on publication towards the end of this year. The white paper did little to abate the continuous onslaught of rogue planning applications outside settlement envelopes, but we have been successful in refusing many such applications and continuously look to squaring the 5-year land supply issue, which is the cause of many an assault.
It feels like Central Bedfordshire is the focus of all developers hunger for permissions, but we are suffering along similar lines to all authorities locally as this part of the world continues to be highly attractive to a wide range of buyers. It was saddening to hear last year of the proposed closure of RAF Henlow. The base has had a signiﬁcant impact on a great many residents of Central Bedfordshire and will be sadly missed when it closes in 2020. The potential scale of development on the site could have a wide-ranging impact on the surrounding area and we will be leasing closely with ward members to resist the natural temptation to concrete over the whole of the base.
Across CBC, the focus on improving the delivery of services remains a key priority. The development of an improved on-line service appears to be working well, with the use of our website and the sign up to social media channels rising very rapidly in the last year. Transformation programmes in core directorates are starting to produce signiﬁcant improvements in the service offered and the outcomes sought. This improvement culture stretches to areas such as overhead cost and a new programme of how we utilise ofﬁce space is leading to a reduction in the amount of space we occupy per employee.
The outcomes of the Community Planning workshops have started to be fed back. This will be given on a drip basis rather than one complete bundle. Ofﬁcers have been particularly impressed with the quality of input and have found the information offered to be helpful in formulating their thinking behind an infrastructure led Local Plan. The turnout across the whole of the authority has been excellent.
If you lived in the Clophill and Maulden area, last year’s major gas outage wouldn’t have been welcomed, but it did allow the council’s disaster planning programme to be put to the test. The system has been developed to deal with such emergencies and provides an action plan for the authority, emergency services and communities to work together. This planning was the subject of a recent Town & Parish conference which was well received and hopefully will provide plans should such an event occur in Fairﬁeld. The ﬂash ﬂooding last year in Pix Brook is the type of disaster that such planning can be focussed on and it is good to see that following that event, a Pix Brook wide survey is being commission to help avoid another such occurrence.
Clearly the battle to abate the odour arising from the Letchworth STW cannot go without signiﬁcant mention. The change in process last year at the plant has created a quite disgusting smell that can pervade just about every corner of Fairﬁeld, and further aﬁeld, on any given day. Despite the plant actually being in North Herts, CBC ofﬁcers have been working extremely carefully in developing a case to have the nuisance abated. Thanks must also go to Fairﬁeld PC and the Residents Association for their continued support in keeping the right pressure on Anglian Water. The matter led to a summons being served on AW by CBC to abate the nuisance, but efforts to ﬁnd a quicker solution on site do appear to be the focus of AW’s efforts. Thank you to all the residents who have diligently kept records of the nuisance. This has been extremely valuable to Central Bedfordshire Council.
The parish council have raised a number of schemes that they feel would continue to enhance
Fairﬁeld for its residents. These are being discussed with CBC and would provide many of the
ﬁnishing touches that are perceived to be missing in the village. It is also worth noting that Fairﬁeld is the ﬁrst parish in Central Bedfordshire to complete and submit a Neighbourhood Plan for inspection. Many other parishes are in the process of doing so, but are taking much longer to complete the task.
One ﬁnal observation relates again to development in some respects. It is usually cited at application stage from locals that development shouldn’t be permitted because of speeding close to a proposed site. However this is rarely backed up with any evidence and can often then work against an objection, particularly on edge of settlement sites. Speed watch is a particularly good way of providing such evidence and clearly helping to reduce speeding. It only takes 6 volunteers to set up a group. Details of how to start can be found via your parish clerk.