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1. Introduction and Context

1.1 The purpose of the Allocations and Designations Local Plan is to identify sites for development to meet the borough’s needs to 2021 based on the scale and general locations already agreed and explained in the adopted Core Strategy and Rural Issues Plan. These sites are called ‘allocations’ in the Plan (Chapters 3- 6). In addition the Plan includes ‘designations’ for areas of land or boundaries which indicate where specific policies apply (Chapters 7-17). The Plan also includes some policies which apply to development throughout the borough. Whilst it had been the Council’s intention at the outset of the Allocations and Designations Plan process to include Gypsy and Traveller sites in the Plan, as a result of a ruling in the High Court and on the basis of legal advice the Council resolved in July 2011 to identify Gypsy and Traveller sites in a separate Development Plan Document. The preparation of this plan was subsequently abandoned when the 2012 Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment showed that there was no need to make additional provision in the period up to 2021.

Structure of this Document

1.2 The location of allocations and designations is illustrated on the Bedford Borough Council Policies Map which is a separate document. The Policies Map can also be found on the Council’s website (www.bedford.gov.uk/planning). The on-line Policies Map enables detailed boundaries to be seen more clearly as it is possible to change the viewing scale.

The Evidence Base

1.3 The preparation of this document is founded on an evidence base of background information. This includes the responses to consultations that have taken place during the ‘Issues and Options’ stage, including the sustainability appraisal (see below). A list of the relevant background papers is set out in Appendix 4 at the end of this document. Some are technical reports prepared by specialists or consultants and others have been prepared by the Council to explain the process of reviewing specific policies. The assessments of sites submitted to the Council as potential development sites are combined by chapter to form background papers. The papers are available on the Council’s website.

Sustainability Appraisal

1.4 In preparing this Plan, the Council has tested the proposed policies through a process called sustainability appraisal. This testing has identified and provided the Council with an understanding of the environmental, social and economic effects of the proposals. It has served as an important tool in highlighting what appropriate mitigation measures are required. All the sites that were put forward to be considered for allocation were also assessed for their sustainability and this information used to assist in the selection of sites. The sustainability appraisal documents are available from the Council and can be viewed on the Council’s website.

Previous Consultations

1.5 Consultation with stakeholders, residents and local groups (including local councils) underpins the preparation of the Allocations and Designations Local Plan. The Council has sought views at a number of points during the Issues and Options stage of the Plan’s preparation and the details can be found in a separate Statement of Consultation. The Statement includes the details of the draft plan consultation that took place between May and July 2010.

1.6 Over 4000 responses were received to the draft plan consultation and the comments have helped to shape the final document. All the comments have been arranged by chapter and the resulting tables include both a response from the Council and where appropriate, details of how the plan will change. Those tables 1 are published separately and are available on the Council’s website.

Planning Background

1.7 The current spatial planning system was introduced in the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004. The majority of policies of the Bedford Borough Local Plan 2002 have been ‘saved’ until they are replaced.

1.8 Bedford’s Development Plan is made up of a series of Local Development Documents. The overall strategy for the borough is set out in the first of these, the Core Strategy and Rural Issues Plan, which was adopted in 2008. The Bedford Town Centre Area Action Plan, which covers the central area of Bedford, contains detailed policies and proposals for the regeneration of Bedford town centre. This was also adopted in 2008.

1.9 The adoption of the Core Strategy and Rural Issues Plan and the Bedford Town Centre Area Action Plan has already led to the deletion of some saved Local Plan policies and the adoption of the Allocations and Designations Local Plan has led to the deletion of more. Details can be found in Appendix 5.

1.10 In order to achieve consistency with the Core Strategy and Rural Issues Plan, the Allocations and Designations Local Plan provides detailed proposals to meet the borough’s development requirements up to 2021. The Plan must be consistent with the policies set out in the Core Strategy and Rural Issues Plan as well as national guidance. In particular the Plan must follow the criteria set in the Core Strategy and Rural Issues Plan for the amount and location of development.

1.11 As part of the development plan the Allocations and Designations Local Plan will help deliver the borough’s Sustainable Community Strategy. The contribution of each policy of the Plan is shown in the Implementation and Monitoring Framework in Appendix 3. The Council will also liaise as appropriate with adjoining authorities on sites which abut or straddle the borough boundary.

Core Strategy and Rural Issues Plan

1.12 The Core Strategy and Rural Issues Plan was prepared within the context set by national planning policy and the regional spatial strategy set out in the East of England Plan and the Milton Keynes South Midlands Sub-Regional Strategy. The Core Strategy and Rural Issues Plan sets out the long term vision for the borough, spatial objectives and the spatial policies needed to deliver the environmental, community and economic vision.

1.13 The borough-wide spatial vision is as follows:

“Change is embraced. Growth focused on the borough’s main urban areas and the Marston Vale has fostered a successful economy and expanding sustainable communities, supported by better social and transport infrastructure. At the same time the town centre has been revitalised, acting as a catalyst for growth and leading to a step change in Bedford’s role and place within the region. Rural communities have been sustained through meeting local needs and remain viable. All of this will have been achieved in ways which ensure that the development and use of land promotes quality of life, health and well being for everyone as well as celebrating our distinctiveness and protecting the Borough’s environmental assets.”

Core Strategy and Rural Issues Plan

1.14 The Plan focuses most development in the Bedford Growth Area, which comprises Bedford, Kempston and the northern Marston Vale. The remaining part of the borough is known as the Rural Policy Area. The objectives of the Core Strategy and Rural Issues Plan are as follows:

  1. Deliver the planned growth in Bedford, Kempston and the northern Marston Vale to achieve a step change in the borough’s role in the region.
  2. Ensure future development is based upon sustainable development principles.
  3. Provide guidance on where any future growth, if required, should occur (in the period up to 2021).
  4. Provide quality housing to meet current and future needs of all sectors of the community.
  5. Foster significant employment growth.
  6. Direct retail development to the most appropriate locations.
  7. Foster the regeneration of Bedford town centre to enable it to fulfil a greater role within the region.
  8. Support the delivery of coordinated transport improvements with the emphasis on non-car modes, improving east-west communications and achieving greater transport interchange.
  9. Encourage key rural communities to become more sustainable places to live and work.
  10. Achieve high quality design that takes account of character, local distinctiveness and sustainable design principles, enables access and promotes community safety.
  11. Protect and enhance the countryside, biodiversity and geodiversity, and the quality and connectivity of green infrastructure in the borough with particular emphasis on enhancing the Marston Vale.
  12. Minimise the use of energy and encourage greater use of energy from renewable sources.
  13. Provide a mechanism for the delivery of infrastructure (including health, education, transport, community, leisure and recreation facilities) in tandem with new development.
  14. Protect and enhance the borough’s built cultural and community assets and the character of settlements and foster the development of the borough as a destination for heritage and cultural tourism.
  15. Protect the environment by minimising the risk of flooding and the effects of climate change and facilitating improvements in air quality.
  16. Involve the community in the decisions about the planning of the borough so they can influence and shape such decisions.

1.15 The Implementation and Monitoring Framework in Appendix 3 sets out how the policies of the Plan contribute to achieving the objectives of the Core Strategy and Rural Issues Plan, the higher-level plan to which it must be consistent. It also shows how policies will be delivered and the timescale for their implementation.

Bedford Town Centre Area Action Plan

1.16 This Plan was adopted in October 2008 and sets out the vision for the regeneration of Bedford town centre. It builds upon the Core Strategy and Rural Issues Plan Policy CP19 (which seeks to promote the regeneration of the town centre) and Policy CP20 (which sets out a retail hierarchy). This plan contains further detail on certain schemes in the town centre such as the housing allocation for Land South of Ford End Road (Policy AD6).

Other Material Considerations

1.17 In addition to the adopted development plan and supplementary planning documents, the Council has various policies and strategies which do not form part of the development plan but which may be material considerations in deciding whether a development is acceptable. Such documents include the Council’s highways and parking standards and strategies, both specific, such as the High Street Strategy, and borough-wide, such as the Green Space Strategy and the Older People’s Accommodation Strategy 2011-16.

Regional Spatial Strategy

1.18 The Allocations and Designations Local Plan has been written to be consistent with the requirements of the Core Strategy and Rural Issues Plan which in turn was based on information contained in the East of England Plan dated May 2008.

1.19 During the examination of this Plan, the East of England Plan was revoked (3 January 2013).

1.20 This change to the development plan did not have a direct impact on the scope and content of the Allocations and Designations Local Plan as the scale of development required for the period it covers and the strategy that has informed the allocation of suitable sites is explained and adopted in the Council’s Core Strategy and Rural Issues Plan.

1.21 The majority of the housing target can be met through existing commitments and sites where the Council has resolved to grant planning permission. The new Growth Area housing allocations in the Plan are sites which provide flexibility in the housing supply or endorse the residential potential of sites already in the housing trajectory. Land at Wixams is allocated for the specific purpose of supporting and accelerating the delivery of Wixams new settlement. In the Rural Policy Area allocations are made to meet clearly identified local needs. The existing commitments for employment sites meet some of the requirement for employment, while new allocations in this Plan will satisfy the remaining quantitative and qualitative needs. The Core Strategy and Rural Issues Plan, saved Local Plan policies and the Bedford Town Centre Area Action Plan continue to be part of the ‘development plan’ and therefore are ‘material’ planning considerations when considering development proposals.

Minerals and Waste Planning

1.22 The former Bedfordshire County Council adopted a Minerals and Waste Local Plan in 2005. Many of the policies of that document are being replaced by a new Local Plan, which is being prepared jointly by Bedford Borough, Central Bedfordshire and Luton Borough Councils. This new Plan is likely to be adopted in 2013. The new Local Plan sets out strategic objectives for minerals and waste issues in the whole of Bedfordshire and contains details of sites which will provide sufficient minerals, waste disposal and waste recovery capacity for the period up to 2028. Minerals and waste issues are therefore not included in the Allocations and Designations Local Plan. Nevertheless, the Council has sought to ensure that the policies and proposals of the two plans are compatible.

Travelling Showpeople

1.23 At the start of the Allocations and Designations Local Plan process the East of England Plan single issue review Policy H4 set out the requirements for the provision for Travelling Showpeople in Bedford, Central Bedfordshire and Luton. An appropriate split between the authorities was agreed in 2010. On this basis, the required amount of accommodation for Bedford borough was determined to be 8 plots. In accordance with this requirement the draft plan proposed the site at Manton Lane for Travelling Showpeople use. Consultation on that proposal through the draft Plan consultation process did not raise issues about additional need and therefore the Council did not consider it necessary to reassess the need for this type of accommodation before submitting the Plan, and the Council has continued to be guided by the Regional Spatial Strategy derived target.

Gypsies and Travellers

1.24 Following the publication of the Government’s Planning Policy for Traveller Sites the Council has undertaken a review of the need for Gypsy and Traveller accommodation in the borough. This took place in the summer of 2012. The purpose of the assessment was to identify the number of additional pitches needed up to 2021. It did this by establishing the current unmet need, assessing net need for the period 2012-17 on the basis of information and monitoring about Gypsy and Traveller sites and the Gypsy and Traveller households who are resident in the borough and finally estimating need for the period 2017 -2021 on the basis of a 3% compound growth rate.

1.25 When the figures for all of these separate elements were brought together it was found that there is no need for additional pitches to be provided to 2021. This results from the Council having secured planning permission for 6 additional permanent pitches at Kempston Hardwick, 14 permanent pitches on a new site at Meadow Lane and an Emergency Stopping Place Site at Meadow Lane. These sites provide sufficient supply to meet needs to 2021. The Kempston Hardwick site was completed in 2013. The Meadow Lane site is likely to be delivered in early to mid-2014.

Guidance on the Application of Core Strategy and Rural Issues Plan Policy CP9: Accommodation for Gypsies, Travellers and Travelling Showpeople

1.26 Should any further applications for Gypsy and Traveller or Travelling Showpeople accommodation come forward in the plan period they will be determined in accordance with Core Strategy and Rural Issues Plan Policy CP9.

1.27 Policy CP9 explains that where a need can be shown, the preferred location for accommodation will be within or adjoining the urban area or the Settlement Policy Areas of villages but, where no such sites are available or suitable, sites in the countryside may be acceptable. Regard will be had to the advice in the Government’s Planning Policy for Traveller Sites (para 23) that local planning authorities should strictly limit new traveller  site development in open countryside that is away from existing settlements or outside areas allocated in the development plan.

1.28 Policy CP9 provides 7 criteria, all of which must be ‘clearly satisfied’ if an application is to be approved. Following the revocation of the East of England Plan, criterion (i) which requires evidence to be given of local need for the development, will be assessed with reference to the Council’s current assessment of local Gypsy and Traveller and Travelling Showpeople accommodation needs.

1.29 A Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment will be undertaken as part of the preparation of the Council’s Local Plan to assess need for the period beyond 2021.

Presumption in Favour of Sustainable Development

1.30 The National Planning Policy Framework states that a “presumption in favour of sustainable development” is a golden thread running through planning. Plans should reflect this presumption and include policies that explain how the presumption will be applied locally. The policy below sets out what the presumption means in a Bedford context and how it will be applied.

Policy AD1 Sustainable Development Policy

When considering development proposals the Council will take a positive approach that reflects the presumption in favour of sustainable development contained in the National Planning Policy Framework. It will always work proactively with applicants jointly to find solutions which mean that proposals can be approved wherever possible, and to secure development that improves the economic, social and environmental conditions in the area.

Planning applications that accord with the policies in the Development Plan will be approved unless material considerations indicate otherwise.

Where there are no policies relevant to the application or relevant policies are out of date at the time of making the decision then the Council will grant permission unless material considerations indicate otherwise – taking into account whether:

  1. Any adverse impacts of granting permission would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policies in the National Planning Policy Framework taken as a whole; or
  2. Specific policies in that Framework indicate that development should be restricted.

Local Plan Post 2021

1.31 Following adoption of the Allocations and Designations Local Plan, the Council will prioritise the preparation of a new Local Plan which will identify local development needs beyond 2021. Issues and Options consultation will commence in 2014 and the Council will aim to have the Local Plan in place before the end of 2016. A detailed timetable is published in the Local Development Scheme and can be viewed using the following link: www.bedford.gov.uk/planningpolicy

1. Titled ”Comments Received on the Draft Allocations and Designations Plan and Recommended Responses”

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