The Local Plan has been a momentous task, it’s a complex set of policies and has been contentious at times. But it is arguably one of the most important policies the council has. Why? Because it gives the council and local people much more control over the future development of our area – it shapes how Central Bedfordshire will change in the years ahead, be that new homes, schools, jobs, or transport.
The Local Plan is a ‘masterplan’ which sets out how Central Bedfordshire will develop over the next twenty years. New homes are often the focus for most people. 39,350 new homes over twenty years is a significant challenge. Central Bedfordshire is described as an area of high growth, this isn’t new, we have long been a popular area for people to move to – we’re close and have good links to London, this coupled with needing more homes for our own young people need somewhere to live means the demand for new homes in our area. This demand for new homes is not new going away. We will have to build more homes and the Local Plan helps us to control where this happens and what services and infrastructure we expect to be built with them. It also sets out the requirements for supporting roads, schools, retail, leisure, and community facilities, such as new country parks, to ensure developments are not just housing estates but are actually places where people want to live, bring up their families and make their home – just like you and me.
Without an adopted Local Plan, there is precious little we could do to stop developers building wherever they want to. The good news is that, now we have an adopted Local Plan, we are in a stronger position to reject applications that don’t meet our expectations.
Something that often gets overlooked is the Local Plan also sets out areas for new and expanded employment sites, which will create a minimum of 24,000 new jobs.
Producing a Local Plan that balances the conflicting pressures of ambitious government targets for new homes and jobs, whilst protecting the countryside and green belt isn’t easy. It’s an understandably emotive issue. I know as well as anyone that residents care deeply about their local environment, especially preserving our precious green or open spaces. So, it’s no mean feat that we have successfully managed to adopt a Local Plan which provides a sustainable, balanced, and achievable strategy for future growth and development.