The face of Houghton Regis is set to change over the next 20 years after plans to build up to 5,150 new homes and a “substantial” retail development were approved by Central Beds Council.
Planning permission to build on the 647-acre site on Green Belt land north of the town was granted by the development management committee at a meeting last Wednesday.
The “flexible” plans allow for up to 202,500 metres of retail and industrial development, as well as a care home, in addition to as many as 1,545 ‘affordable housing’ dwellings.
This is in line with the council’s policy to ensure that about 30 per cent of new housing from planning permissions reflect the type of housing best-suited to the area’s needs.
The affordable housing will be a 50-50 split between shared ownership mortgages and affordable rent tenures.
Councillor Nigel Young, executive member for sustainable communities, said: “Some of the houses will be the type of affordable housing that young people will want to buy.These are the types of houses we should be building.”
A 121-page report outlining the plans focuses on the economic viability and sustainability of the long-term scheme.
Consultant project manager Lachlan Robertson said: “Should we see an increase in value over the next 20 years, some of the extra value would go to the council to do with as they see fit, to pay for additional affordable housing.”
Mr Young said: “Members have expressed concerns over the impact of a large retail development.
“Neither Houghton Regis Town Council or Dunstable Town Council have objected because they have read the evidence.”
The plans received an official objection from the owners of the Quadrant shopping centre in Dunstable.
However Mr Young said: “The high street is improving, and doing well. We have many different types of shops, with entrepreneurs selling things you can touch and buy.
“I do not feel the new retail developments will be a significant threat to Dunstable. It will be good for Houghton Regis and there will be substantial benefits for Dunstable.”
The report outlines that sustainable transport will be encouraged to reduce the impact of the increase in private traffic.
Mr Robertson said: “Pastures Way may be used as a public transport route in the future – that is one option that can be explored.”
Mr Young did raise concerns over how parking measures would accommodate the increase in local traffic, but Mr Robertson said: “Design will be considered with car parking in mind and car parking will be considered with design in mind.”
Councillor Brian Spurr had strong words for those with a negative view of bringing new housing and retail to Houghton Regis.
He said: “It’s an awful view to take. I wish they’d leave and let us who want to improve Houghton Regis to get on with it.”
Mr Spurr was also optimistic regarding the possible introduction of sporting facilities as part of the plans.
He added: “I’m confident there will be enough green land available for sporting projects and we can look into the possibility of going to Sport England for funding.”
Councillor Fiona Chapman questioned the move with regards to investing heavily in retail.
She said: “Retail is a thing of the past. Shopping is increasingly done online rather than in a physical shop.”
Internet users took to the Gazette’s Facebook page to react to the news.
Carey Adams said: “I think anything we have to contribute on the subject is a moot point. So far all the council has shown us recently is that resistance is futile.”
Amy Ivins said: “What is the point of labelling an area ‘Green Belt’ if you are then allowed to build on it?”
Chris Taverner said: “While it is true that the majority of us would love to keep Green Belt land, for the countryside, it is undeniable that we have a huge housing shortage.
“Combined with the fact that one main way to kick-start the economy is to build houses, it seems inevitable that houses will turn up where many people do not want them.”
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More information about the proposals is available at www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk.