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15. Urban Area Boundary and Local Gaps

15.1 In order to protect the countryside from inappropriate development it is necessary to distinguish clearly where policies relevant to built-up areas apply and where policies relevant to the countryside apply. This is done by defining an urban area boundary and village Settlement Policy Area boundaries. The Allocations and Designations Local Plan reviews the boundaries that were previously defined in the Bedford Borough Local Plan 2002. This chapter is concerned with the urban area boundary while Settlement Policy Area boundaries are considered in Chapter 13.

15.2 The chapter covers the following matters:


  • Applying consistent principles for drawing the urban area boundary.
  • Preventing coalescence between the urban area and nearby villages.

15.3 Policy CP13 of the Core Strategy and Rural Issues Plan protects the countryside from inappropriate development. The National Planning Policy Framework sets out the types of development that are appropriate to the countryside, such as agricultural workers’ accommodation.


Policy AD41 Urban Area Boundary

The Council seeks to protect the character of Bedford and Kempston, and to protect the countryside from inappropriate development by defining on the Policies Map the extent of the urban area. The urban area boundary encloses the area where policies relevant to built-up areas apply and beyond which policies relevant to the countryside apply.


15.4 It is important to set clear principles to guide how the urban area boundary should be drawn. The urban area boundary has been defined using the following principles:


  1. The urban area boundary will enclose the main existing built-up area of Bedford and Kempston including allotments and other urban open spaces which form an integral part of the built-up area.
  2. Large built community uses (e.g. schools and community halls) and their functionally related grounds will be included within the urban area boundary. (Note that this does not include buildings ancillary to a primarily open space use).
  3. Open spaces adjoining the main existing built-up area will be excluded from the urban area except where they are enclosed by a major road or other clearly defined boundary.
  4. Built development that is expected to occur adjoining the main existing built-up area, either as a result of an allocation within the Development Plan or as a result of an extant planning permission, will be included within the urban area boundary if it meets the above criteria.

15.5 The resulting boundary is shown on the Policies Map. For the avoidance of doubt, in situations where the urban area boundary is drawn along the edge of a dwelling, it is not the purpose of the boundary to prevent general householder developments so long as they conform with other relevant policies which guide their size, design, siting and impact on adjoining properties.

Coalescence Between Settlements

15.6 This Plan seeks to prevent coalescence between nearby rural settlements, particularly with the urban area through a local gaps policy. The objectives of this policy are:


  • To prevent the coalescence of settlements.
  • To maintain the predominantly open and undeveloped character of the gap.
  • To protect the separate character and identity of settlements including their setting.

15.7 The areas where the local gaps policy applies are shown on the Policies Map.


Policy AD42 Local Gaps

Areas which have particular importance as a local gap are identified on the Policies Map. Development will not be permitted in or adjoining a local gap which, because of the nature of the proposal:


  • diminishes the gap physically or visually; or
  • changes its character adversely; or
  • compromises the integrity of the gap, either individually or cumulatively with other existing or proposed development; or
  • harms the character, setting or identity of any settlements separated by the gap.

Proposers of development in or adjoining a local gap will be expected to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the local planning authority that their proposal does not conflict with the objectives of this policy.


15.8 The policy imposes greater restraint of development than elsewhere in the countryside. In this respect local gaps will be protected, not only from development that would lead to a physical joining of settlements, including that which might normally be considered to be acceptable development in the countryside, but where possible also from an increase in levels of activity which would reduce the distinction between leaving one settlement and arriving in another. This policy takes account of the principle that the essential feature of the gaps can be purely the absence of development and activity rather than necessarily its landscape quality.

15.9 It also takes into account that local gaps are generally narrow and limited in extent such that any development could seriously affect their openness and could be seen as contributing to visual or physical coalescence. The appropriate width of a local gap is likely to be no more than 1 mile (1600 m) in extent and may be much less. However in some circumstances a larger gap may need protection.

15.10 The areas where a local gaps policy will apply and the reasons for designating them are set out below. The areas are identified on the Policies Map.

Cleat Hill – Bedford

15.11 The gap between the Cleat Hill development and the main built-up area of Bedford varies on either side of Kimbolton Road (200 m of open countryside on the west side of the road, 260 m of public open space on the east side of the road). However at their closest the distance reduces to 80 m diagonally across Kimbolton Road. The size of the gap is such that it requires additional protection to prevent coalescence and to preserve the separate character and identity of Cleat Hill.

Salph End – Bedford

15.12 Salph End immediately adjoins the urban area and extends northwards from it but separation needs to be maintained in relation to development on Norse Road (less than 600 m). Any development on the east side of Salph End is likely to reduce openness and contribute to visual coalescence with Bedford thus affecting the separate character and identity of Salph End.

Renhold (Green End) – Bedford

15.13 The gap between Green End and Bedford varies between 600 m and 1 km. Green End is located on higher ground overlooking Bedford and any development in this area is likely to reduce openness and contribute to visual coalescence thus affecting the separate character and identity of Green End.

Renhold (Church End) – Bedford

15.14 The gap between Church End and Bedford is less than 900 m. Church End is located on higher ground overlooking Bedford and any development in this area is likely to reduce openness and contribute to visual coalescence thus affecting the separate character and identity of Church End.

Cardington – Bedford

15.15 The gap between Cardington and Bedford is less than 600 m at its closest. In order to preserve the separate character and identity of Cardington village, the gap between it and the Bedford urban area requires additional protection from development to prevent coalescence.

Shortstown – Bedford

15.16 The gap between Shortstown and urban area boundary at Bedford is less than 600 m. In order to preserve the separate character and identity of Shortstown, the gap between it and the Bedford urban area requires additional protection from development to prevent coalescence. The intervening open land contains some sporadic development on Old Harrowden Road and Harrowden Lane. The effect of the proposed policy would be to constrain further development in this location if it were to conflict with the objectives of the policy.

Shortstown – Cardington

15.17 The gap between Shortstown and Cardington is less than 1 km. In order to preserve the separate characters of both Shortstown and Cardington village, the gap between them requires additional protection from development to prevent coalescence.

Wootton – Kempston

15.18 The gap between Wootton village and the urban area boundary at Kempston is less than 1 km. The intervening open land contains some development at Gibraltar Corner and in a ribbon to Keeley Green on the edge of Wootton. This area lies within the northern Marston Vale Growth Area and the pressure for additional development means that there is a risk of settlement coalescence. In order to preserve the separate character and identity of Wootton, the gap between it and the urban area requires additional protection.

Green End – Kempston

15.19 The gap between Green End and the urban area boundary at Kempston is about 300 m at its closest. The size of the gap is such that it requires additional protection to prevent coalescence and to preserve the separate character and identity of Green End.

Bromham – Biddenham

15.20 The gap between Bromham and the Bedford urban area boundary at Biddenham varies between about 200 m at its closest to about 1 km. The size of the gap is such that it requires additional protection to prevent coalescence and to preserve the separate character and identity of Biddenham. The intervening open land contains some frontage development on Bromham Road. The effect of the proposed policy would be to constrain further development in this location if it were to conflict with the objectives of the policy.

Clapham – Bedford

15.21 The gap between Clapham and Bedford varies between about 650 m and about 1 km. In order to preserve the separate character and identity of Clapham, the gap between it and the Bedford urban area requires additional protection from development to prevent coalescence. The intervening open land contains some development around Clapham Green. The effect of the proposed policy would be to constrain further development in this location if it were to conflict with the objectives of the policy.

Oakley – Clapham

15.22 The preceding local gaps have been identified to prevent coalescence with the Bedford – Kempston urban area, however this gap is unusual as it is to prevent coalescence between villages. Both villages have experienced substantial post-war development because of their good links to Bedford. The gap between Oakley and Clapham is less than 800 m and requires additional protection to prevent coalescence and to preserve the separate character and identity of both villages.

Bedford River Valley Park – Cople

15.23 Policy AD23 of the Plan allocates land between Bedford and Cople for built development to enable the delivery of a watersports lake as part of the Bedford River Valley Park. The gap between the allocated development and Cople is less than 500 m and requires protection to prevent coalescence and preserve the separate character and identity of the village.

Bedford River Valley Park – Willington

15.24 Policy AD23 of the Plan allocates land between Bedford and Willington for built development to enable the delivery of a watersports lake as part of the Bedford River Valley Park. The gap between the allocated development and Willington is about 600 m and requires protection to prevent coalescence and preserve the separate character and identity of the village.

Wilstead – Wixams

15.25 The gap between Wilstead and Wixams is less than 800 m. In order to preserve the separate character and identity of Wilstead village, the gap between it and the planned Wixams new settlement requires additional protection from development to prevent coalescence.


Urban Area Boundary and Local Gaps

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