Update and New Consultation on CBC Local Plan

A fixed boundary point for development has been agreed by Central Bedfordshire Council (CBC), Fairfield Parish Council (FPC), and Axiom, the applicant developer of the 2,000 proposed homes in the East of Arlesey development in the CBC Local Plan.

We have agreed that no development will be allowed on the Fairfield side of the High Pressure Gas Pipeline that runs through the two conurbations, the route of which is shown on an accompanying map. (See separate link)

The CBC proposed Local Plan sets out their proposals for development throughout Central Bedfordshire, giving housing estimates, areas for industrial growth and for future transport. It was launched in 2018 and, following consultation, came before Matthew Birkinshaw and Helen Hockenhull from the Government’s planning inspectorate for examination in June/July 2019.

FPC objected to the proposals at the Inquiry. This followed two public meetings with residents about the Local Plan when it was agreed that, as they stood, there was a high risk that Fairfield could be merged with Arlesey. Further concern was expressed that West Drive could be made to allow vehicular access between the two. One of the objectives of the CBC Local Plan was that coalescence (the joining of areas) should be avoided at all cost

FPC presented proposals to the inquiry in which we contended that the CBC proposals had a high risk of producing coalescence. We demonstrated how the housing number could be achieved together with the Arlesey relief road without encroaching on Fairfield.

In a long response to the public examination of the Local Plan, the Inspectors strongly criticised the proposals and raised a series of questions for CBC to answer that are outlined below (64-67)

  1. 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.
  2. 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”.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

The Inspectors views were contained in a lengthy letter to CBC last September (It can be downloaded from this link) that covered all areas of the plan.

Since then CBC has been working on their response to all questions posed and following discussions between all three parties involved (CBC, Axiom and FPC) agreement was reached on a development boundary and this response was sent to the Inspectors.

CBC are proposing deleting part of their original plan and substituting it with the following.

  1. The eastern edge of the built development shall be defined by the National Grid High Pressure Gas Pipeline to prevent coalescence between Arlesey and Fairfield. No residential uses shall be permitted beyond this boundary.
  2. The development shall provide a country park between the eastern edge of the development and the Settlement Envelope of Fairfield. The country park will comprise a range of different formal and informal typologies to include formal sports provision to the north adjacent to Chase Farm and protected habitat areas and leisure uses in and around the Blue Lagoon to the south. The central section around the western boundaries of Fairfield (including the Green Lagoon) will retain its existing open agricultural use, to prevent coalescence between Fairfield and the development. The character areas will be defined in the Development Brief.
  3. The development shall provide an appropriately designed Relief Road to connect Hitchin Road (to the south of Arlesey) to the A507/High Street Link Road in the north being proposed as part of Arlesey Cross. This will allow for access directly onto the A507 relieving congestion along the High Street in Arlesey. The relief road will define the eastern extent of the development edge, following the route of the National Grid High Pressure Gas Pipeline as far as possible.

They also added in specific reference to coalescence to be included in the Local Plan as Policy Requirement 16: –

  1. The development shall provide appropriate landscaping measures to create a sense of place, prevent the coalescence of Arlesey and Fairfield, provide a net gain for biodiversity and shall mitigate the potential impact of development on a predominately agricultural landscape. To mitigate harm a country park will be located on the eastern edge of the development to prevent coalescence and to create a defensible boundary between Arlesey and Fairfield Park.

The boundary they show on the map takes the development to the parish border with the exception of an area that fronts the Livingstone Way pumping station and which belongs to another developer. For this reason, they have excluded this from their plan but make it clear that Fairfield Parish Council are adamant that this area should be included in the overall and not be developed.

In response to other questions they make three proposals offering three scenarios for number of properties. They also state that should the relief road be built nearer Arlesey then that no development would take place this side of the road.

All three proposals make it clear that West Drive would be retained as is.

The CBC response covers all areas and can be downloaded from this link. The relevant part relating to the East of Arlesey proposals are contain in Exam 113 – Housing Technical Paper, while the map is in Exam 113C.

Next Step

The CBC revised proposals are now out further public consultation and will run until 5pm on Wednesday August 13. (CBC FAQ can be downloaded here)