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6. Bedford River Valley Park Enabling Development

6.1 This part of the Allocations and Designations Local Plan relates to enabling development to deliver the watersports lake and other leisure opportunities which are an integral part of the Bedford River Valley Park. The location of the lake is shown in the Green Infrastructure Chapter (Chapter 7). The enabling development proposal was submitted by the landowners’ consortium known as the Bedford River Valley Park Group and is located on the northern side of the A603 (see Figure 4). The term ‘enabling development’ refers to development which generates sufficient value to pay for the provision of the lake. Ideally the enabling development will also fund the delivery of other elements of the wider Bedford River Valley Park. However, if at the time of any planning application the consortium’s viability evidence shows that only the lake can be funded from this development, funding for the remainder of the Bedford River Valley Park proposals would need to be derived from other sources.

6.2 Saved Policies NE23 and LR4 of the Bedford Borough Local Plan relate to the Bedford River Valley Park and the development of the rowing course. Policy NE23 will be replaced by Policy AD26 which addresses the Bedford River Valley Park as a whole. The rowing lake itself benefits from planning permission.

6.3 The site proposed for enabling development does not fall within the Growth area but is within the Rural Policy Area where only very limited development is permissible. Policy CP14 of the Core Strategy and Rural Issues Plan states that where there is a proven need for development to be located in the Rural Policy Area, most new development will be focused in or around the edge of Key Service Centres. The allocation of the site is therefore an exception to adopted policy with the purpose of delivering the watersports lake and, if possible, other leisure opportunities which are an integral part of the Bedford River Valley Park.

6.4 The allocation is generally consistent with the extent of the lake which was granted planning permission in 2006. An extension of time for two years for the planning permission to be implemented was granted in January 2011 and this has now been legally commenced. The planning permission does not include any associated buildings but does include ancillary car parking and a training path. The Council recognises that the lake has the potential to accommodate a range of different watersports including rowing and could also bring about more general recreation benefits. The Council considers that the delivery of the lake and any associated development will not compromise the delivery of the East-West Rail project to the east of Bedford (see Chapter 11).

6.5 Development within the Bedford River Valley Park will have an impact on the surrounding, highly significant historic environment, including the setting of designated heritage assets and their landscape context.

6.6 Accordingly, the enabling development will need to be the subject of an initial comprehensive application (including a Master Plan) which will need to include a heritage statement in order to understand the potential impact of the proposed development on the significance of any heritage assets affected, including their setting and wider landscape context. The level of detail of the assessment should be proportionate to the importance of those assets, and use appropriate expertise and techniques where necessary. The assessment should be used to inform the appropriate location and form of development on the site along with any mitigation measures required and the application will need to be adequately detailed to enable full understanding of the impact on those assets affected.

6.7 The development will need to comply with and contribute towards the comprehensive heritage access, management and interpretation strategy for the Bedford River Valley Park archaeological landscape.

6.8 Further archaeological investigations including fieldwork, assessment, analysis, publication and archiving may be required as a condition of the grant of consent for the enabling development.

6.9 The viability of any scheme will vary with different market conditions. It is therefore appropriate at this stage that any allocation policy gives an indication of the range of uses that may be appropriate and that detailed quantums of development (amount of floorspace, number of units etc) will be determined at the detailed planning application stage, having regard to viability information relevant at that time.


AD23 Bedford River Valley Park Enabling Development

In order to deliver the watersports lake and other leisure opportunities which are an integral part of the Bedford River Valley Park, land identified to the north of the A603 will be developed for the following mix of uses:


  • Employment - including B1 uses for the provision of a business park incorporating opportunities for research and development.
  • Leisure - including a hotel & conference centre and entertainment space for businesses including private sports club and restaurant facilities.
  • Continuing care retirement community - including the provision for on site care and other facilities along with ancillary office accommodation.
  • Education - provision of additional research and teaching and outdoor space to meet the needs of expanding and improving educational institutions.

Viability will be addressed in detail when a planning application is submitted. The required viability assessment will set out the proven cost of delivery of the watersports lake along with any additional qualifying expenditure as may be agreed by the local planning authority required for the delivery of the Bedford River Valley Park against the scale, nature and value of proposed enabling development.

Key principles of development are to include:


  1. Provision of a comprehensive Master Plan for the enabling development.
  2. Provision of a detailed phasing plan for the development that provides delivery of the watersports lake on part of the first phase.
  3. Provision of two access points on the A603 to serve both the enabling development and the wider park area.
  4. Preparation of a transport assessment and travel plan for the site including the provision of mitigation measures as appropriate.
  5. Improvements to transportation networks, including a safe pedestrian and cycle crossing across the A603 linking with existing cycle and pedestrian routes.
  6. An assessment of the site-specific ecological impacts of the proposals to be undertaken prior to the submission of the planning application.
  7. Identify opportunities to enhance biodiversity and green infrastructure.
  8. A heritage statement to be provided to include a detailed assessment of the potential impact of the proposed development on the significance of any heritage assets affected, including setting and landscape context.
  9. Compliance with and contributions towards the delivery of the comprehensive heritage access, management and interpretation strategy for the Bedford River Valley Park archaeological landscape.
  10. Archaeological investigations may be required as a condition of any forthcoming planning permission for enabling development.
  11. Built development will only be permitted within the area shown on the Policies Map.

Figure 4:
Bedford River Valley Park Context Plan

Bedford River Valley Park Context PlanFigure 7

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