A government order to build thousands more new homes could bring Bedford to breaking point.
This week the shocked council was ordered to find space for 6,600 more dwellings – on top of the 19,000 it has to build under its local plan.
The increase will put massive pressure on local infrastructure and cause an “unsustainable” level of building, said mayor Dave Hodgson.
For months the council has been considering sites for the 19,000 homes, admitting it found it an “ambitious” figure.
There are plans to cram the houses into existing villages and build one or more satellite ‘mini towns’ on land around the borough.
Now the council must find space for the extra 6,600 properties – equivalent to a town the size of Ampthill or half the population of Flitwick.
And the government states that all the houses must be built in the next 17 years, by 2035.
Mayor Dave said: “Quite simply, if the government goes ahead with this massive increase in our housebuilding target it will mean a major extension of house building across the borough with huge pressure on infrastructure.”
He now thinks Bedford’s past success in supporting growth has backfired.
“We’ve never been anti-housing growth, because we know we need the homes that allow people to live in suitable housing for them and their family. But because we’ve done well in supporting growth to date, while many other areas haven’t pulled their weight, the government is proposing a massive, unsustainable level of housebuilding here.
“ It is far in excess of our locally identified need.”
Already local members of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) fear the worst with predictions that Bedford will turn into a commuter town.
They claim more than 40 per cent of the new residents will be moving to Bedford from elsewhere in the UK, meaning 11,000 plus people will be looking for employment.
Yet the local plan estimates that only 5,500 new jobs will be needed by local businesses – meaning almost 6,00 will have to commute to find work elsewhere.
“These numbers will turn north Bedfordshire into a series of commuter towns and the local road and rail infrastructure is already struggling to cope,” said a CPRE spokesman.