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2 / BOROUGH STRATEGY

BOROUGH STRATEGY POLICIES

Policy S1 Urban priority

Policy S2 Opportunity

Policy S2: Deleted 8th October 2008 in respect of sites that are covered by the Town Centre Area Action Plan

Policy S3 Urban area boundary

Policy S4 South West Bedford Strategic Corridor

Policy S5 Marston Vale

Policy S6 Settlement Policy Areas

Policy S7 Rural settlement hierarchy

Policy S8 Supplementary Planning Guidance

Policy S9 Facilities in tandem with development

2.1 This chapter has three main purposes, it examines the context for the Local Plan, it explains the overall strategy that is being pursued and it sets out a series of general policies that apply across the other chapters.

CONTEXT

2.2 The new Borough Local Plan is set within a well defined context provided by Government and County policies. It is prepared taking account of local circumstances and the relevant legislation, including national planning guidance embodied in Planning Policy Guidance Notes, and Circulars and is in accordance with official Regulations and Orders. In particular, Planning Policy Guidance Note No. 12 ‘Development Plans & Regional Planning Guidance’ has been used to decide the scope and format of the Local Plan, and guides the environmental appraisal of the Plan’s policies and proposals.

2.3 This context is extremely broad and often quite detailed. However, it is appropriate to highlight the four key influences on the Borough Strategy which are seen to have a fundamental impact. These are:

‘THIS COMMON INHERITANCE’

2.4 This Government White Paper published in 1990, identifies a major responsibility for planning authorities to ensure that their local plans take environmental considerations comprehensively and consistently into account. Such considerations go beyond the traditional concern for landscape quality, nature conservation, the built heritage and the reduction of pollution, and now include newer concerns about global warming and the consumption of non-renewable resources. In 1991, this requirement was embodied in the Planning and Compensation Act. Thus the need to tackle environmental issues on this broad front at a local level, underpins much of this plan. This will become apparent as individual policies and proposals are considered. An environmental appraisal of the Local Plan has been carried out and forms part of the Plan. This and ongoing appraisal work will be used to examine the environmental impact of the Local Plan and identify any inconsistencies and conflicts of approach.

REGIONAL PLANNING GUIDANCE FOR THE SOUTH EAST

2.5 Regional Planning Guidance published in March 1994 formed the basis for the preparation of the County Structure Plan (2011) and this Local Plan. It contains three matters of particular relevance to Bedford. Firstly, it advises on the requirement for new house building at the County level, based on projections of population numbers, household growth and migration patterns. (These influence the County Structure Plan which is discussed below.) Secondly, it expresses a long term strategy to move the weight of new development to the north of the County, ie. away from Luton and South Bedfordshire. Thirdly, regional guidance identifies the Marston Vale area (which straddles the boundary with Mid Bedfordshire) as a regional resource and gives support for a strategy for the development, restoration and environmental improvement of the area in association with continued landfill and brick making activities.

TRANSPORT INVESTMENT PROGRAMMES

2.6 In the context of relatively poor local levels of strategic accessibility and resulting congestion, which in turn act as serious investment disincentives, the content of current transport investment programmes and the scale of public and private funding initiatives are particularly important, since these will influence the strategy of this local plan. It is increasingly clear that assumptions underlying regional and county strategies about the scale of development proposed and the programmed availability of infrastructural investment required to service this level of growth, are out of step. The result is potentially, a growing gap between policy and funding. It is this issue which the plan seeks to address through its main housing and employment allocations.

2.7 Historically levels of trunk road investment have been relatively low and the review of the Trunk Road programme in August 1998 gave funding priority only to the A6 Clapham Bypass and A421 Great Barford Bypass, the Norse Road link scheme having dropped out of the programme. However, the proposed Bedford Western Bypass (A421/A428 and A428/A6 link) continues to have government support on the basis of it being privately funded, and the strategic importance of the A421 is acknowledged.

2.8 Future investment in public transport services and systems is also of concern not least due to the reliance that new forms of sustainable development place on such facilities, and historic patterns of dis-investment and service reduction.

2.9 The quality, capacity and convenience of the local transport network depends upon the level of Government support for the Local Transport Plan which derives from the County Structure Plan and County Transport Strategy. These embody key elements of the Borough/County ‘Integrated Transport Strategy’ and Bedford Transport Development Plan as the Bedford/Kempston Package. Further details of these can be found in the Transport chapter.

2.10 Clearly, in a climate of shrinking infrastructural investment, the contribution that development can provide to the early implementation of such improvements is vital.

BEDFORDSHIRE COUNTY STRUCTURE PLAN

2.11 The Structure Plan (covering the period 1991-2011) needs to be taken into account since it interprets Regional Guidance and sets the context for development policies and proposals. Detailed references are made where necessary in the subsequent chapters of the Local Plan, but there are two key elements, (apart from those which interpret national planning policies and guidance) that have a fundamental impact on the development strategy adopted in this Local Plan. These are:

Provision for Additional Housing

2.12 The Structure Plan sets the overall requirement for additional housing in the County and at District/Borough level and continues to show a greater proportional increase in Bedford Borough when compared with the existing distribution of County population. This is of concern to the Borough Council as provision fails to be matched by compatible levels of investment in infrastructure and local services. Bedford’s requirement to 2006 based on Regional Guidance equates to an annual rate of provision of 780 dwellings. However, the average number of dwellings completed in the years 1991-1998 has fallen short of this rate with the result that over the remaining period to 2006, an average of 975 dwellings would need to be completed annually. This may present a particular challenge to the house building industry.

Strategic Allocations and Corridors

2.13 The development strategy set out in the Structure Plan 2011 has a spatial dimension and makes distinct allocations in respect of both the urban areas and strategic corridors. Coupled with the guidance provided by PPG13 (para 3.2), this is taken as signalling that priority/preference should be assigned to maximising the potential of the urban area, where there is greatest accessibility and scope for modal shifts to less damaging forms of transport, as well as vacant, damaged and under-used sites that are ripe for redevelopment/recycling.

2.14 Within the urban area, Policy 33 of the Structure Plan identifies the west of Bedford as a strategic allocation continuing the provisions of the 3rd Alteration to the Structure Plan. The Marston Vale which extends into Mid Bedfordshire District is identified as the South West of Bedford Strategic Corridor and includes the Elstow Storage Depot as the focus of a site with major development potential. This approach is different to the strategy on which the Consultation Draft of this local plan was based and the plan has now been adjusted to take this into account.

2.15 As a separate, but linked initiative, the County, Bedford Borough and Mid Bedfordshire District Councils are seeking in partnership with the private sector, to upgrade substantially the environment and landscape of Marston Vale. In forming the Marston Vale Partnership, these bodies have produced a Strategy for the Vale which envisages further development occurring in tandem with environmental improvements. The Partnership is expected to agree a mechanism to achieve the necessary practical linkage between development and environmental improvement based on work undertaken by consultants. An important part of this initiative is the creation of the Forest of Marston Vale.

CONTEXT – CONCLUSIONS

2.16 Regional and strategic planning policy have assigned a particular role for Bedford Borough in terms of absorbing additional development. This in turn will have significant implications for the existing built fabric, the local infrastructure and the environment. The main challenge facing the Local Plan is to provide a framework which ensures that this development can be assimilated in a sustainable manner, and which enables the necessary infrastructure to be brought forward. This is explored further in the next section.

THE BOROUGH DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY

2.17 Within this context, the Council has defined a set of overall aims and objectives which have been used to formulate the Borough Development Strategy.

OVERALL AIMS

2.18 Building on the policies established by the Bedford Borough Local Plan 1993, this Local Plan starts from the premise that the land use and planning policies pursued by the Borough Council should contribute to the achievement of the following aims:

To move towards more sustainable forms of development – ensuring that development meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

To protect and enhance the existing built and natural environment and the landscape – giving greater emphasis to improving environmental quality and the conservation of existing assets.

To meet the needs of the Borough’s residents – enabling the provision of sufficient houses, jobs, and other facilities.

To maintain and enhance the economic and social well being of the Borough – by attracting additional investment and encouraging the full use of existing resources.

To protect and enhance Bedford’s role within the sub-region – encouraging the Town Centre to develop a stronger competitive edge and identity, together with improved attractiveness and convenience.

To improve the quality of life for the Borough’s residents – combatting pollution, creating additional facilities and ensuring access for all.

To improve the quality of new development within the Borough – striving for a noticeably higher standard of design and finish in all developments and in the sensitivity of their setting.

To improve communications and movement in and out of the Borough – achieving improved levels of mobility, accessibility, convenience and personal safety consistent with environmental, economic and development considerations.

To promote equal opportunities – the local plan must contribute to ensuring that access to opportunities is not dependent upon age, culture, literacy or mobility. Positive action is required.

2.19 The setting of overall aims is an important stage in preparing plans of all types. It gives clarity of purpose, provides a structure for multi-faceted strategies and a framework for testing progress and achievement. In these practical terms these nine aims are too general and each has therefore been translated into a series of more detailed objectives, as in Appendix A. Policies and proposals of this Local Plan have, in turn, been developed from these objectives.

SUSTAINABILITY

2.20 The major force for change during the plan period is the scale of housing development imposed by the Structure Plan and this must be approached from the viewpoint that development is to be encouraged to locate according to the principles of sustainability. This theme therefore is the main plank of the Borough Strategy. The concept behind this theme is best explained by reference to the established texts on the subject that to a greater or lesser extent informed or derived from the 1992 World Rio Summit and in particular Agenda 21. This body of policy and opinion has been translated to apply to the local situation and land use planning in various documents. In Bedford, sustainability is perhaps most appropriately defined by the consideration of its main implications for the Borough Council’s development strategy. The promotion of sustainable forms of development implies:

  1. maximising the reuse of derelict, damaged and under-used urban sites before the development of greenfield sites is promoted;

  2. concentrating new development on main existing and proposed transport nodes and corridors (in particular rail routes), thereby maximising the potential use of public transport facilities;

  3. encouraging suitably sized and located settlements to become more self-sufficient in terms of matching the provision of housing with local employment opportunities and community services and facilities;

  4. making provision for appropriate mixed use developments thus minimising the potential for trips;

  5. steering development away from areas representing finite resources such as wildlife habitats, mineral reserves, areas of archaeological importance and historic environment;

  6. targeting development to locations where major environmental improvements can be achieved as a direct result, such as the approaches to Bedford.

2.21 The Borough Council’s development strategy has been prepared by following a sequence of deliberate steps, starting with an examination of the capacity of the urban area to absorb development and then considering land adjoining the urban area and the strategic corridor where a number of settlements have been ‘selected’ as focuses for development, before seeking development opportunities in the rural area. This approach complies with the search sequence set out in PPG3 ‘Housing’, is consistent with that of the Structure Plan and produces a hierarchical development strategy comprising potential locations for development in descending order of preference thus:

The Urban Area

The preferred location for development with an emphasis on recycling derelict, vacant or under-used sites subject to no inappropriate loss of open space or employment land.

Land Adjoining the Urban Area

An area of search for development subject to infrastructure provision , landscape, environmental and other constraints.

Strategic Corridor

An area of search for development subject to infrastructure provision, landscape, environmental and other constraints focused on existing ‘selected’ settlements and brownfield sites. ‘Selected’ settlements are prime foci for development in the Plan period.

First Order Villages

Settlements with a good range of facilities, community provision and access.

Second Order Villages

Settlements with a recognisable built-up character and basic facilities.

Other Settlements

Settlements without a recognisable built-up character which are subject to rural restraint policies.

2.22 The overall scale of development in the first three locations is set by virtue of policies 32 and 33 of the Structure Plan 2011. As to the balance of the strategic housing development requirement, the Structure Plan gives no guidance as to any specific spatial criteria to be applied. However, it can be expected that a proportion will be found within the rural area, ie. First and Second Order Villages. It is appropriate to consider this hierarchy in greater detail.

THE URBAN AREA

2.23 At the local level, the most effective strategy to improve environmental sustainability, given the growth requirements imposed by the Structure Plan, is to concentrate development in the urban area where public transport is focused and where most facilities, shops, schools and jobs are located. However much of the undeveloped land in Bedford and Kempston is precious as open space and contributes considerably to the character of the twin towns. It provides amenity, habitat, places for recreation including allotment gardens and if it were developed it could never be replaced. Such open land is identified on the Proposals Map and is protected. Equally, the value of existing business sites and premises must be recognised not least due to local unemployment levels, a growing imbalance between homes and jobs in this part of the County, the need to maintain a range of sites with varying characteristics and qualities, the need to promote mixed land use patterns, and reduce journeys to work. However, the assessment carried out by the Borough Council has identified a number of vacant premises and derelict sites in the urban area and others that are approaching a point of obsolescence as to prompt redevelopment.

POLICY S1
The Borough Council will use its influence and resources to encourage the beneficial reuse of derelict and under utilised urban sites in order to expand the range of housing available, foster the vitality and viability of Bedford Town Centre and to encourage the creation of new and additional employment opportunities.

2.24 Proposals are made in relation to each of these sites and as appropriate they are the subject of specific policies elsewhere in this plan. Because of land assembly and other issues, it is recognised that a proportion of these urban sites including those most suited to mixed use schemes, may only come forward for development in favourable market conditions. It is for this reason that the plan designates such sites as Opportunity Sites.

POLICY S2
Within the urban areas there exists a number of opportunity sites that have redevelopment potential for a mix of land uses. These are shown on the Proposals Map. The Borough Council will seek to encourage land owners and other interests to investigate such opportunities and bring forward proposals.

Policy S2: Deleted 8th October 2008 in respect of sites that are covered by the Town Centre Area Action Plan.

2.25 The Borough Council’s views as to the potential of these Opportunity Sites are described in Appendix D.

LAND ADJOINING THE URBAN AREA

2.26 As one might expect, the bulk of new development over the years (indeed centuries) has taken the form of extensions to the urban area with the creation of Goldington, Brickhill, Woburn Road and Elms Farm estates for example. However, town cramming and congestion are serious concerns and much of the countryside and other open areas that encircle Bedford and Kempston are of particular value and are now constrained perhaps more than ever before. In addition, as the urban area expands outwards, the surrounding settlements are at risk of becoming subsumed into Bedford and Kempston. There are therefore real concerns about coalescence, and one of the main functions of the local plan is to ensure that new development adjoining the urban area is accommodated in a sustainable manner, ensuring that the identity of individual settlements is retained. Furthermore unrestrained outward expansion would not assist urban regeneration and the re-cycling of urban sites.

2.27 To the north, the established Area of Special Restraint seeks to prevent the coalescence of Bedford with Renhold and Clapham. The creation of a linear park in this area is a key objective.

2.28 To the south, the Southern Bypass is tightly drawn around the urban area leaving only the opportunity to expand the quality and range of employment land available for development. The open setting and important views of the historic village of Elstow are important to maintain. Beyond the Bypass immediate development is resisted so as to avoid coalescence with Shortstown, encroachment into the open countryside and to help promote the establishment of the Forest of Marston Vale.

2.29 Development to the east of Bedford is also constrained by the alignment of the Southern Bypass. The open river valley within this area, is crucial in defining the character of the town. As such it will continue to be subject to policies concerning Areas of Special Restraint and River Protection Area. The Borough Council is promoting leisure and recreation proposals in this area in accordance with these policies.

2.30 To the west of Bedford and Kempston and given Structure Plan allocations, there is the opportunity to extend the urban area up to the proposed Bedford Western Bypass. In this context, the village of Biddenham is not considered to be within or adjoining the urban area and is shown by way of an inset to the Proposals Map.

2.31 In recognition of these constraints, and to be consistent with other elements of this Plan (ie. Settlement Policy Areas) the edge of the urban area has been defined on the Proposals Map. This includes both the existing builtup areas of Bedford/Kempston, and land adjoining the existing urban area which is considered suitable for development during the plan period. Within this urban area boundary, there are areas of open countryside, parkland and riverside areas that have particular value as such and these are designated as Area of Special Restraint.

POLICY S3
The Borough Council seeks to protect the character of Bedford and Kempston by defining on the Proposals Map the extent of the urban area, which marks an outer limit to their expansion, and by protecting structural open spaces by specific designation including the extension of the Area of Special Restraint.

2.32 Within this envelope there is considerable development potential, particularly in the south and west of the urban area. Some of this potential has already been acknowledged, at Harrowden, and at Biddenham Loop. These sites are well located in relation to the strategic road network. The local plan identifies additional land, specifically targeted to provide key elements of strategic infrastructure, with the ultimate aim of enabling the Department of Transport to bring forward complementary elements of its Trunk Road Programme. This has been a fundamental consideration in devising the development strategy of this plan.

2.32a Immediately adjoining the defined urban area, on its southern side, is the settlement of Shortstown. Here there is a major opportunity to improve the existing settlement in association with the development of brownfield land at and adjacent to the former RAF Cardington. This has been designated a ‘selected’ settlement in the hierarchy along with those in the South West Bedford Strategic Corridor (see below).

2.33 The approaches to Bedford and Kempston are important as they provide a number of gateways into the town and the opportunity to integrate the landscape improvements and other environment benefits envisaged by the Marston Vale Strategy and the Forest of Marston Vale. The scope and ability of the identified development sites to make a significant contribution to these key projects is critical to their acceptability in terms of the Borough Council’s overall strategy. The Plan includes policies in respect of each of these sites which are also shown on the Proposals Map.

THE SOUTH WEST BEDFORD STRATEGIC CORRIDOR

2.34 The Structure Plan in effect assigns about a quarter of Bedford’s total housing requirement to the South West Bedford Strategic Corridor. It also identifies Elstow Storage Depot as the focus of a strategic allocation (taking about half of the corridor requirement) and indicates an area of search on the Key Diagram which embraces settlements at Stewartby and Wootton as well as parts of Mid-Bedfordshire.

2.35 The purpose of Strategic Corridors is not to create a linear urban area. This in any case would probably not be possible in Marston Vale due to the scale and disposition of mineral reserves, active brick pits and landfill sites. The approach to development in the corridor is to strengthen the existing ‘selected’ settlements of Wootton and Stewartby and to form a new ‘selected’ settlement by the redevelopment of the largely redundant Elstow Storage Depot and nearby land. Housing development on this scale needs to be matched by increased opportunities for employment. The plan identifies several such locations within the corridor including a key site at the proposed junction of the Southern and Western Bypasses with the A421. Developments of this scale need to be planned carefully and dovetailed with the provision of infrastructure. In consultation with acknowledged interests, ‘supplementary planning guidance’ in the form of development/planning briefs will be prepared and adopted in order to secure appropriate forms of development.

POLICY S4
To accord with Structure Plan Policy 33, the ‘selected’ settlements of Wootton and Stewartby, and a site focused on Elstow Storage Depot shall be the location for development planned in the context of the South West Bedford Strategic Corridor.

2.36 A century of brick making activity has left its mark on the Marston Vale, producing a landscape that now provides a challenge and an opportunity for both the business and landowning interests in the Vale, and for the local community. Public and private organisations have in partnership prepared a Strategy for the Vale which sets out the guiding principles for a major landscape restoration initiative financed through development. The area is one of twelve Community Forests in the UK and this covers a more extensive area than the Strategy produced by the Marston Vale Partnership.

2.37 The objective of the Strategy is to create a more attractive and varied landscape, characterised by extensive woodland and copses, water areas and well managed farmland that will provide an appropriate setting and recreational and access opportunities for the existing and prospective residents of the Vale. Joint action, probably sustained over several decades, involving the public, private and voluntary sectors will be needed to achieve the scale of environmental and landscape enhancement envisaged. Proposals for further development, including residential and commercial schemes, mineral extraction, waste management and transport investment will be supported by the planning authorities where such proposals make a positive contribution to the strategy. The designation of a strategic growth corridor will assist in focussing attention on the Vale and bringing forward these environmental improvements.

POLICY S5
The Borough Council places a very high priority on achieving the objectives and principles embodied in the Marston Vale Strategy and will use its powers and resources with others to achieve positive improvements to the landscape and environment of the Vale. Within the Marston Vale Strategy Area (as defined on the Proposals Map) planning applications for development proposals will be determined in accordance with the policies of this plan, and with specific reference to the contribution that the development makes to achieving the strategy and improving the environment of the Vale.

2.37a Policy NE21 refers to the Borough Council’s support for the Forest of Marston Vale.

THE RURAL AREA

2.38 In physical, social and economic terms the character of the rural area is not uniform. It exhibits a range of different types and sizes of settlements, different landscapes and a variety of rural economic activity including farming. Its future requirements as addressed by this Local Plan cannot be viewed solely in the context of the blanket policies of rural restraint as set out in the Structure Plan and previous Local Plans. It must be viewed in the context of the following considerations: a) the contribution that rural communities might make towards achieving greater levels of sustainability; b) the need to move towards more viable rural communities, including diversification; c) the need to optimise the utility of existing investment in infrastructure etc; d) the need to promote social inclusion and provision of affordable housing.

2.39 Structure Plan policies are well established and impose considerable restraint in the rural area, protecting the countryside from urban sprawl, ribbon and sporadic development, preventing the coalescence of settlements and conserving the rural character of this part of Bedfordshire. It would be totally inappropriate to abandon the principle of rural restraint, yet the Local Plan must accommodate the acknowledged development pressures and have regard to the Government’s latest guidance. The approach that the Borough Council has taken has involved defining firstly Settlement Policy Areas and secondly establishing preferred rural locations as in the hierarchy referred to below.

Settlement Policy Areas (SPAs)

2.40 Within the rural area, planning policies have an emphasis of restraint and have previously applied as a blanket across the whole. Historically, this has caused problems of interpretation on the edge of settlements and where there are isolated clusters of houses, perhaps mixed with farm buildings. When this matter was considered by the Local Plan Inspector in 1992/3, he made the suggestion that a line be drawn round each village to mark the limit of development so that a clear distinction could be made between the policies applicable to villages, and those relevant to the surrounding countryside; hence Settlement Policy Areas.

2.41 Rural communities have witnessed many changes over recent decades. With increasing car ownership, many villages have experienced a decline in their range of facilities. Village shops, Sub-Post Offices and businesses have closed as people are more able and willing to travel the distance to the larger centres for their needs. However, increasing awareness about the wider environmental issues associated with high car ownership levels, coupled with renewed interest in the regeneration of rural economies and the maintenance of viable rural communities, may arrest or perhaps reverse this trend of decline.

2.42 Whilst the lifting of restraint policies would have a dramatic and unwelcome effect on the character of the rural area and run counter to sustainability aims, it is clear that in drawing a firm and enduring line around a village it is appropriate to consider whether or not the SPA should make some allowance for development. Obviously some villages are better placed to absorb growth than others and some may need modest levels of development in order to survive as communities.

2.43 The approach taken to the definition of Settlement Policy Areas (SPAs) has been very much a ‘bottom-up’ process involving detailed discussions with each Parish Council at the outset about how their villages should change in future years. Firstly, this process involved deciding which settlements should have defined development limits and which should be regarded as part of the countryside. The view formed that SPAs should not be defined for settlements without a recognisable built-up character, due to their size and/or the dispersed nature of development. The Borough contains many small groups of houses scattered about the rural area, some of which are known locally as ‘Ends’, where the cumulative effect of development would have a major adverse impact. Such settlements have been regarded as forming part of the open countryside where there is a general presumption against development.

2.44 Secondly, the Borough consulted Parish Councils about the boundaries of each SPA. Parishes were asked if they felt that their village had the physical capacity to absorb growth without adversely affecting the character of the village, whether some growth would be likely to improve the prospects of the village becoming more self-sustaining, and if there were constraints that would suggest that growth might be inappropriate.

2.45 The outcome of this exercise provided a crucial input into the Consultation Draft Local Plan and has attracted a large amount of support from Parish Councils. This preliminary work, along with ongoing dialogue and negotiation has continued to influence the current local plan strategy.

2.46 Thus the local plan defines Settlement Policy Areas that will:

  1. promote policies of rural restraint, by protecting the countryside for its own sake, preventing the coalescence of settlements, ribbon development, and the piecemeal extension of villages; and,

  2. provide a framework and additional clarity for the control of development within the built-up area of villages during the plan period.

2.46a Whilst Biddenham and Elstow villages are located within the boundary of the Urban Area (Policy S3) and are not wholly surrounded by countryside, they remain distinct places having a quasi-rural character and accordingly they have been given a defined Settlement Policy Area.

POLICY S6
The Borough Council defines Settlement Policy Areas on the Proposals Map to distinguish between the built-up areas of villages and the countryside surrounding them which shall be protected for its own sake. Within the Urban Area, Biddenham and Elstow villages have a defined Settlement Policy Area in recognition of their quasi-rural character.

2.47 Policies setting out the considerations to be used in determining planning applications for development within SPAs (both in specific and general terms) are to be found in the housing and employment chapters of the plan.

SETTLEMENT HIERARCHY

2.48 In determining the location of development (ie. to sites first in and adjoining urban areas and then to settlements in the Strategic Corridors), the Structure Plan identifies the upper section of a settlement hierarchy which needs to be extended in the Local Plan to provide a basis for the planning of the rural part of the Borough in addition to the ‘selected’ settlements referred to in paragraph 2.21. The rural settlement hierarchy is defined in the Plan as follows:

First Order Villages

First Order Villages are larger rural settlements, with a population exceeding 1,500 inhabitants. They are generally well located to significant local work opportunities, public transport connections and road/rail corridors, and have a good range of facilities and community provision. This typically would include a Lower School and shopping facilities.

Second Order Villages

Second Order Villages have a recognisable built-up character and basic facilities.

Other Settlements

Other settlements within the rural area are regarded as forming part of the open countryside where there is a presumption against development.

This hierarchy sets out the order of preference in the rural area (ie. after the urban area, land adjoining the urban area and the strategic corridor) of potential locations for development.

POLICY S7
The Borough Council defines a rural settlement hierarchy. Villages have been categorised as First Order Villages, Second Order Villages, and other settlements.

2.48a Classification does not necessarily imply the suitability of a village for expansion; constraints on growth must also be taken into account. Any proposals for development will be considered against the rural planning policies, in particular the policies contained in the housing and employment chapters. The suitability of a village to accommodate additional housing is based on an assessment in the context of the following factors:

  1. the location of the village in relation to the main urban area, the strategic road network and the potential use of public transport;

  2. the size of the village and the strength of the local infrastructure and scale of village facilities already existing or capable of provision

  3. the character and form of the village;

  4. the scale of recent developments and their degree of integration;

  5. the scale of environmental and other constraints upon development including: long term environmental designations such as landscape protection, nature conservation, river protection areas, areas of special restraint, etc; and shorter term or specific inhibiting factors such as major recent growth, and priorities and policies in higher level guidance and plans; and

  6. the scope for development to generate benefits that would help meet local plan objectives such as the provision of affordable housing which will help secure a mixed and balanced community.

FIRST ORDER VILLAGES

2.49 The following have been designated First Order Villages:

2.50 Bromham is a large well established village with a good range of local services. It has been the focus of significant development in recent years which will take time to assimilate and there are further outstanding planning permissions. It has environmental constraints, is not within a preferred location as defined by the Structure Plan and thus only has limited development potential. In addition, given its proximity to sites H6, H7 and H8, Bromham’s growth should be held in check until those sites are virtually built out as development here would deflect housing demand from key allocated sites where essential roads infrastructure, otherwise unobtainable from the public purse, can be provided.

2.51 Clapham has been constrained in recent years, more so than the other comparable satellite settlements around Bedford and Kempston, because of the drainage situation. This problem has now been resolved and some development is thought appropriate in advance of completion of the A6/Clapham Bypass to support existing local services.

2.52 Great Barford is well located in terms of the strategic road system and enjoys a good range of local facilities. However, absence of a bypass and constraints due to the A421 trunk road which passes through the village limits its capacity for development.

2.52a Oakley has been the focus for much development in recent years because of its location close to Bedford and good access to the strategic road system. However there are many significant constraints on growth which effectively rule out further significant expansion during the plan period.

2.53 Sharnbrook acts as a focus for the rural area north of Bedford. Relatively modest proposals in this plan will provide direct benefits for the village and thus the allocations made are seen as being supportive of the village whilst, at the same time, contributing to the wider strategic aim.

2.55 Wilstead is reasonably located on the A6 south of Bedford and is just beyond the area of search for the South West Bedford Strategic Corridor. With the prospect of a new settlement focused on Elstow Storage Depot nearby, the scale and character of Wilstead need to be respected and this in addition to other constraints limits the potential for development. No more significant growth will be allowed in the village while the Elstow New Settlement is establishing itself in this plan period.

SECOND ORDER VILLAGES

2.56 Second Order Villages where small development sites have been identified are as follows: Cardington, Cople, Cotton End Eastcotts, Elstow, Harrold, Riseley, Roxton, Stagsden, Swineshead, Turvey, Upper Dean, Willington & Wymington

2.57 Other villages which fall into the Second Order category, but where small development sites have not been specifically identified are as follows:

Biddenham, Bletsoe, Carlton, Colmworth, Felmersham, Little Staughton, Milton Ernest, Odell, Pavenham, Podington, Church End Ravensden, Green End Renhold, Salph End Renhold, Souldrop, Stevington, Thurleigh, Wilden & Yelden.

EMPLOYMENT

2.59 Fundamental to the local plan strategy, is the premise that employment opportunities must go hand in hand with new housing and population growth. This is essential to secure growth in the local economy, to achieve a more sustainable land use pattern which reduces journeys to work, and to meet the requirements of modern commercial enterprises.

2.60 The local plan aims to achieve this by:

  1. Introducing policies to protect existing employment areas from loss due to change of use or redevelopment. This is equally important within the urban area and within the rural area.

  2. Encouraging investment in brownfield sites such as Thurleigh Airfield. Development briefs have already been prepared for Thurleigh Airfield and Elstow Storage Depot and the adopted Shortstown Development Brief will be revised and made subject to public consultation in order to take account of changed circumstances.

  3. Identifying a new employment sites located at key intersections on Bedford’s trunk road network in order to maximise accessibility and commercial attractiveness.

  4. Ensuring that major housing allocations are accompanied by employment opportunities, and that this requirement forms an integral part of the development briefs prepared for these sites.

GENERAL POLICIES

2.61 To avoid unnecessary repetition in this plan, the following section introduces a series of policies that have an impact and application beyond the remit of individual chapters.

2.62 The Borough Council prepares, consults upon and adopts supplementary planning guidance from time to time in order to provide a more detailed context for the preparation and consideration of planning proposals. The purpose of this guidance is to supplement and add further detail to the specific development details included in the local plan process. Documents to be considered as supplementary planning guidance are listed within the Implementation chapter of this plan and include guidance currently being produced.

POLICY S8
The Borough Council will consider its adopted supplementary planning guidance to be an important material consideration in the determination of planning applications.

2.63 Where the scale or complexity of development, or the sensitivity of local issues indicate, the Borough Council will prepare, consult upon and adopt Development Briefs as supplementary planning guidance.

2.64 The local plan proposes a number of substantial development sites, the development of which depends upon elements of infrastructure, the provision of amenities, or community, educational and other facilities necessary to serve the development. In all such circumstances and in the context of Circular 1/97, the following policy shall apply:

POLICY S9
In accordance with the principles set down in current published national policy advice, the Borough Council will seek provision of community and other facilities in tandem with development with planning permission. Where appropriate and necessary, it expects development to contribute directly to the capital and/or revenue costs of consequent social and physical infrastructure provision.

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