Anger over early plans bid for massive housing scheme in Marston Vale

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Campaigners fighting plans for a massive housing development which they say will dwarf villages in Marston Vale have reacted with shock to an outline plan for the scheme before a decision on the council’s Local Plan.

Central Bedfordshire Council submitted its plan, which included the Marston Vale scheme, to Government inspectors in April.

But developers O & H Properties has already put forward its outline plans for the development of four linked villages of 5,000 homes which will surround Marston Moretaine, Lidlington and Brogborough, with a decision expected in September.

Rob Booth, chair of the Lidlington Action Group, said: “The developer has made some changes to their plans in response to what local people said to them.

“But these don’t address the issues we raised with them. The Council’s own assessment showed that building at this scale on this site would merge existing villages with the new development. The latest plans show this will remain the case - there will be no meaningful separation between Lidlington, Marston and the new settlement. There will still be no direct access from this site to the main roads (the A421 and A507) which will lead to unmanageable congestion on local roads and air pollution.

“These plans also reveal that the developer cannot – or does not intend to – meet the requirements set out in the Council’s Local Plan for this site. These include a higher density of housing, less employment land, less tree cover and no guarantees on affordable housing or a cycleway to Ridgemont Station. That is disappointing but not surprising. Residents have seen developers fail to meet what is required of them in a number of sites locally in recent years.”

“The Council could make better choices about which sites to develop and at what scale. Building 5,000 houses in Lidlington doesn’t make any sense. It would reverse 25 years of efforts to recover the landscape of the Marston Vale from decades of industrial scarring. It would create a new town bigger than Ampthill right in the middle of the Forest of Marston Vale. Existing villages like ours would lose their identity. And the whole area will be blighted by traffic congestion and air pollution.

“Important wildlife habitats would be lost. That could all be avoided if they built at reduced scale in Lidlington and made better use of other more suitable sites where the resulting traffic could be better managed. But the Council just aren’t listening. We hope the Government-appointed Planning Inspector will listen at the hearings later this year and require the Council and developer to amend their Plan.”

Pippa Cheetham, head of planning at O&H, said: “The engagement from local residents was very helpful and while some are opposed to development, we have benefitted from many others’ openness and suggestions as to how the Marston Valley proposal can work for them.

“We have made changes to the original plans in the light of those suggestions. We hope the Council recognises the efforts made by all involved to make the Marston Valley work for both existing and new residents.

“Our vision is to create an exceptional living environment in the Marston Vale where people will be proud to live and work, and will want to visit. Our scheme will promote healthy lifestyles with an emphasis on footpaths and cycle routes, and can provide housing to meet wide-ranging community needs.

“Marston Valley is about taking a strategic, long-term approach to planning for the wider needs of the area, not just building houses.

“Releasing the land for up to 5,000 homes over the next 20 years not only provides much-needed homes for an expanding population, but also generates funding to pay for new facilities and strategic improvements in the Marston Vale which couldn’t otherwise be considered.

“Delivering Marston Valley as a comprehensive development is crucial to secure significant investment in infrastructure. Smaller scale or piecemeal development does not provide the same level of coordinated infrastructure. That’s why we need to have a bold vision

O&H says one of its highlights is a major new waterway park connecting existing lakes. Built in conjunction with the B&MK Waterways Trust this has already hit a snag after it was announced an upgrade to the A421 at Milton Keynes would not provide a culvert needed to link the canal to Marston Vale. The Waterways Trust says it need to raise more than £3million by September this year to fund the culvert.

O&H has refined its plans for Marston Valley following feedback from the engagement programme and these are reflected in the application material. Changes include providing greater woodland buffers to the east of Lidlington to put more distance between the existing village and the new housing, and introducing a limited extension to the village of Brogborough for some smaller family homes.

The developers want to build a series of villages and a business park in the area. The proposal includes:

Central Bedfordshire Council is now consulting on the planning application. You can read more about the application and have your say at www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/marstonvale. The consultation period is for five weeks, and letters to residents will be issued from this week onwards.

The outline planning application has been submitted by O&H Properties Ltd, and will be determined under a separate legislative process to the Local Plan.

Councillor Nigel Young, Executive Member for Regeneration at CBC, said: “This is a really important opportunity for local people to continue to help shape the plans for their area. I want to urge as many people to take part in this consultation as possible, which is why we are writing to every resident in Marston Moretaine, Lidlington, Millbrook, and Brogborough.

“Before we make a decision on the outline planning application, we will review all of the feedback and assess how well the developer’s proposal meets the requirements that we laid out in our Local Plan.

“Making sure developments come forward with the right infrastructure, open spaces and services like schools and health facilities is vital to ensuring that these new communities are sustainable and great places to live and work.”