Ward Councillor, Steve Dixon, gave the following report at our May Annual Parish Meeting: Reflecting on our 2017 report and looking to the last twelve months, the issue of development continues to prevail. However, while the 2017 report was an account of continued unplanned growth, the last twelve months does feel as if some better control is finally emerging through our local plan.
As many residents may remember, Central Bedfordshire Council decided to accelerate the submission of our plan for examination to the end of April 2018, to protect our right to plan for a lower level of housing, rather than waiting for a potentially higher figure being forced upon us. That difference would probably have seen the annual rate of house completions raise from 1,800 to over 2,500.
While the spectre of development is a difficult one for many residents to come to terms with, the very pressing need for more housing and jobs from population growth alone, are better managed through an approved plan, than by an appeal. This way, the impact of such development can be assessed, and an appropriate level of infrastructure sought. Indeed, the two key themes of our local plan are those of infrastructure and coalescence. Without the first, development simply won’t take place and the prevention of coalescence is deemed vital too. Regards this point, it is credit to the residents of Fairfield that they have sought to tackle the potential impact on their community from proposed development in Arlesey, by working through the parish council, with a specialist consultant to prevent coalescence. It is also pleasing to see the introduction of protective countryside gaps in the plan, as with the two areas to the north and south of Stotfold.
The recent public open forums gave strategic planners valuable feedback on residents’ views on the plan, which will be considered as it evolves.
The plan will be submitted this month and we hope, be “made” in around twelve months’ time. During this time, we cannot stop applications being made, but it’s likely that the emerging plan will be considered more material in considering any applications. This is by no means clear cut, but it is a move in the right direction. While the overall quantum of proposed sites in the ward is relatively low, we mustn’t underestimate the burden of unplanned growth we have endured in the last eight years.
Across Central Bedfordshire, considerable effort is being put in to looking at the future shape of the authority. Significant work is going into helping key partners develop new models of delivery in areas such as Health, Adult Social Care, Education and Skills. Managing demand is a continuing challenge CBC faces as we look to improve frontline services against the backdrop of a rapidly declining level of central government funding.
While our own adjustments such as moving the Customer Service Desk from Chicksands to Shefford Town Library, improve the accessibility, our current consultation on Domestic Waste Collection, offer the opportunity to continue our journey towards reducing the overall volume of waste collected and an increase in the amount of recycling undertaken across the authority.
It has been pleasing to see Speedwatch being so enthusiastically embraced across the ward. The menace of speeding is becoming more widespread and leading to a number of potential accident hotspots. The evidence gathered through Speedwatch is valuable to the Police and sets a strong cultural tone about speeding in the ward. Thanks to those who have volunteered to date. There is always room for more help.
It took a considerable effort in the last year by CBC, The Rt Hon Alistair Burt MP and the parish council, to ensure the necessary works were undertaken at the Sewage Treatment Works to abate the odour. This done, we sincerely hope that the measures now in place will prevent another similar occurrence. Thanks also to Anglian Water for their co-operation in finding a solution to the problem, explaining their plans and still continuing to monitor for any unpleasantness, albeit perhaps not as quickly as residents would have wished for.
It was a considerable pleasure to have Fairfield become the first parish in Central Bedfordshire to have its Neighbourhood Plan passed. While other parishes have been pursuing this goal for up to three years, the achievement of the plan team to have done so in twelve months, deserves praise. It was also satisfying to see the conclusion to the long running campaign to have Fairfield identified with its own postal address. It has taken some four years to convince the Post Office that an address “divorced” from Stotfold was appropriate and with the overwhelming majority of residents in support of “Fairfield, Hitchin, Hertfordshire”.
The issues on Hitchin Road continue to dominate our mailbox. While the need for services from the highway isn’t in dispute, the uncoordinated fashion of this activity has caused considerable disruption. Efforts are now being made to bring the various contractors to work in a more cohesive manner.
As ever, we will continue to work for Fairfield residents, as ward councillors and through the roles of Vice Chairman of the Council, Executive Member for Families, Education & Children and Lead Member for Children’s Services