Tensions rise again between Central Beds and Luton over new Local Plan

Political rivalries between neighbouring local authorities in Bedfordshire are simmering again over a fresh planning consultation.

Friday, 27th April 2018, 1:52 pm
Updated Friday, 27th April 2018, 1:56 pm
L13-128 5-2-13 MPLO The LBO's Anne Cox hands over the Retail Park poll results to cllr Alan Shadbolt at the Central Beds District Council offices in Chicksands near Shefford. wk 6 AC JX ENGPNL00120130502155209

It’s emerged that Luton Borough Council isn’t seeing eye-to-eye over talks regarding Central Bedfordshire Council’s Local Plan.

The two councils fell out when Luton took legal action over housing provision for Houghton Regis in 2014, only for its case to be rejected in the High Court, where a judge then refused the right to appeal.

Central Bedfordshire Council met last night (Thurs 26th) to decide whether the plan should be forwarded to the government on Monday (April 30th).

Conservative councillor for Dunstable Watling Nigel Young said there had been a significant number of meetings with Luton, which he understood had been positive, with the latest on April 6th.

But councillor Young, who is the executive member for regeneration, explained that amended minutes of the meeting were received from Luton borough suggesting its “stated position hadn’t been met”.

“Other than that they had been misrepresented, there was no further explanation,” he told councillors.

“We want to continue to have dialogue with Luton to narrow down the number of points before the detailed examination of the plan.

“There’s no sign of agreement. We co-operated with 14 local councils, 13 agreed with the co-operation. Likewise with eight statutory bodies, all agreed to fully co-operate.

“There is nothing of substance to suggest we delay the submission (of the local plan).”

Independent group leader and Potton councillor Adam Zerny expressed his concern that “Luton doesn’t agree that the duty to co-operate has been met”.

“They’re pointing to misrepresentation in meetings,” he said. “I don’t think we can afford to ignore that.”

He described the expensive legal battle with Luton over Houghton Regis as “a significant factor”, adding: “It’s not something we can just gloss over. Is Luton’s objection a problem?” he asked councillors. “I would say it is. Is it (this plan) rushed? I would think it is.”

Councillor Young replied that they “will continue to resolve that issue” with Luton, and emphasized that Central Bedfordshire was forced to defend its position at the High Court and the subsequent appeal, and “won both cases”.

Councillors agreed to send the Local Plan to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

The document sets out how the area will develop over the next twenty years.

It includes new villages in Marston Vale, and hundreds of homes in towns and villages, as well as plans to turn RAF Henlow into a mixed use development featuring a science and technology park.