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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

INTRODUCTION

The next 15 years are set to be a time of change for the Borough. By 2021 the urban areas of Bedford and Kempston and the northern Marston Vale should be very different having experienced a major growth in population, housing and jobs.

The Core Strategy and Rural Issues Plan is a key part of the Bedford Development Framework (a set of planning documents which will eventually replace the local plan) as it sets out the vision and the high level planning policies for the borough as a whole. In essence the role of the Core Strategy and Rural Issues Plan is to manage growth positively and to promote the sustainability of the borough. The plan is also part of a suite of strategies including the Council's Community Plan, Corporate Plan and economic development strategy, which all share this common aim.

In summary the Core Strategy and Rural Issues Plan aims to assess:

  • Where are we now?
    What is the Borough like today and what are its key social, physical and economic characteristics? What are the main issues facing the borough?
  • Where would we like to be?
    Looking forward to 2021, how do we hope the borough will have changed and developed?
  • How do we get there?
    The plan's policies are the means of delivering the vision.

The plan does not include site-specific allocations, for example housing or employment sites. These will be contained within other documents that will in time form part of the Bedford Development Framework.

WHERE WE ARE NOW – THE SPATIAL PORTRAIT

Bedford Borough as it is today has many strengths: its strategic location; its environment, built and natural; its people and diverse communities; and its compact town centre positioned on one of the region's great rivers. However it also has weaknesses which need to be addressed. Relative to the surrounding area, these include a legacy of under investment, a poorly performing local economy, a weak housing market and an infrastructure deficit. Bedford has increasingly been overshadowed by its neighbours with the result that over time its function and role in the region has been eroded.

WHERE WE WANT TO BE – THE VISION

In the coming years, there is a real opportunity to embrace change and to re-establish the borough's position and profile in the region. Our proposed vision for the borough 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."

HOW WE CAN GET THERE – THE SPATIAL STRATEGY

The draft East of England Plan sets out planning policy for the region and thus the whole of Bedford Borough. A part of the borough has been designated as being within the Milton Keynes & South Midlands Growth Area, established in the government's Sustainable Communities Plan of 2003. The sub-regional strategy for the Growth Area recognises the potential of the Growth Area (Bedford, Kempston and the northern Marston Vale) to accommodate a significant volume of development.

Following on from the vision statement and in the context of regional planning policy the plan includes policies which cover five main themes:

  • The Growth Area
  • Sustainable rural communities
  • Town centre regeneration and revitalisation
  • Distinctiveness and environmental assets
  • Delivery and implementation.

Together the policies seek to ensure that:

  • Development takes place in line with regional plans.
  • Development follows sustainable principles.
  • The areas of Bedford, Kempston and the northern Marston Vale (the Growth Area) are the focus for  development.
  • Wootton, Stewartby and for the future Wixams are identified as Growth Area key service centres.
  • 16,270 new homes are built in the Growth Area.
  • Affordable housing is provided on sites of 15 dwellings or more or 3 or more dwellings in villages having a population of less than 3,000.
  • 16,000 additional jobs are provided giving priority to B1 uses.
  • In the Rural Policy Area development is focused on key services centres which are identified as Bromham, Clapham, Great Barford, Harrold, Sharnbrook and Wilstead.
  • 1300 new homes are built in the Rural Policy Area and affordable housing is provided to meet the needs of local people. This may include the allocation of sites for 100% affordable housing for local people.
  • Bedford town centre is regenerated.
  • All new development is of the highest design quality.
  • The borough’s heritage and its cultural assets and its landscape are protected.
  • Existing green infrastructure is protected and support is given to the Bedford Milton Keynes canal.
  • Development minimises the impact of climate change.
  • Transport infrastructure is provided in accordance with the Local Transport Plan and sustainable transport encouraged.

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