Controversial plans for a new road on Green Belt land linking the M1 and the A6 in Bedfordshire have been approved.
The two-and-three-quarter-mile route runs through the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and was opposed by conservation groups, several local authorities and many residents.
The Central Bedfordshire Council scheme to build the road on 170 acres of land from junction 11a of the motorway to the A6 Barton Road will be referred to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.
A rail freight interchange (RFI) is proposed at one of the junctions along the new route, which will connect to Camford Way to the south.
Sundon Park Road will be stopped up for motorised traffic, said a report to CBC’s development management committee.
Part of the route would be single carriageway, with stretches of dual carriageway at the busiest sections.
The Wildlife Trust has expressed its concerns on the visual impact of the plans, while other objections were made by CPRE Bedfordshire, the Chilterns Conservation Board, the Woodland Trust and Natural England.
The proposed development would form inappropriate development within the Green Belt, according to the report to councillors.
“But very special circumstances have been shown and are considered to clearly outweigh the harm to the openness of the Green Belt.
“The proposed development would result in some harm to the AONB, the character of the area, and the visual amenity of the countryside,” added the report.
“But it is considered that the scheme presents substantial public benefits which outweigh the harm to the landscape and the AONB.”
Representatives of local parish councils spoke against the development at today’s committee meeting, and Conservative Ampthill councillor, Paul Duckett, who sits on the Chilterns AONB board for the council, put forward its concerns.
The site contains two areas of ancient woodland, located at Sundon Wood and George Wood.
The link road needs to be built to cater for the Luton North housing allocation and the Sundon RFI, explained the report to councillors.
Luton Borough Council has argued there is no evidence to suggest the road is needed.
The council’s planning policy manager Sarah Barker said “the 50mph barrier” to the north is unnecessary and that housing could be provided north of Luton “without creating noise, air pollution and an unpleasant environment”.
The committee approved the project 10-3, with one abstention.
The council will write to the Secretary of State, who has the option of calling in and considering the plans.