‘County is being concreted over’

GREEN BELT: Land to the north of Houghton Regis has been earmarked for housing growth
GREEN BELT: Land to the north of Houghton Regis has been earmarked for housing growth

A planning application has been lodged for thousands of homes to the north of Houghton Regis, as a last-chance public consultation on housing growth gets underway.

Central Bedfordshire Council wants 7,500 new homes to be built to the north of the town, and people can have their say in a six-week consultation starting on Monday (January 14), before the housing strategy goes before a planning inspector for approval.

But a major planning application for an area described as ‘Houghton Regis North Site 1’, has already been lodged with the council.

The outline scheme includes 5,150 homes, shops, leisure facilities, a petrol station, hotel and care home, on Green Belt land.

The total area earmarked by the strategy stretches from the A5 in the west to the M1 in the east, and is green belt land.

Phil Parry, chair of Chalgrave Parish Council, said the housing growth would dramatically alter the character of the landscape.

“At the moment it is nice rolling countryside,” he said. “It’s further concreting over Bedfordshire.

“We get the feeling it’s a done deal. This idea of localism, where decisions are passed down to residents, just doesn’t seem to be working.

“Part of it is being driven by the developers, who are making a substantial contribution towards the building of the A5-M1 link road.

“Another point we are concerned about is the figure of 2,450 new jobs – how do they get to that number, and what will the quality of the jobs be?
“And we think the number of homes will mean another 5,000 cars on the roads around here.”

Mr Parry said it was difficult for the public find information about the strategy on the council’s website.

“It’s quite difficult to navigate their site, the documents aren’t user-friendly and we don’t feel they have done enough in terms of consultation,” he added.

A spokesman for Central Bedford Council said special wildlife sites within the growth area would be “integrated into the green infrastructure”, and that the majority of hedgerow and woodland would be retained.

The consultation was being publicised via letters and emails, the council’s magazine, press releases and the council website, she added.