Battle of the Biddenham-Bromham gap goes to Bedford Council on Monday

A tsunami of more than 1,040 objections have failed to persuade planning officers to oppose a scheme for 160 homes in the fields between two villages.

Thursday, 25th April 2019, 4:58 pm
Updated Thursday, 25th April 2019, 5:03 pm
The site just outside Biddenham

Only one member of the public has voiced support for proposals for land off Deep Spinney and Gold Lane, in Biddenham, and blamed a “well-co-ordinated parish council-led drive to maximise the number of objections”.

But the overwhelming majority of comments received in this latest Battle of Biddenham are calling on members of Bedford Borough Council’s planning committee to throw out Lioncourt Strategic Land’s plans when they meet on Monday evening.

“It seems to us that by submitting this planning application prior to the determination of the Local Plan 2030, the applicant is trying to subvert the democratic process,” said Gerry Sansom, of CPRE Bedfordshire. “It is CPRE Bedfordshire’s view that the application should be refused on the grounds of prematurity.”

The site just outside Biddenham

The Biddenham Society, Biddenham Parish Council, and scores of residents have lined up to lambast the plan, which is a second attempt to build homes on the 7.86 hectare buffer zone between Biddeham and Bromham.

The top concerns of members of the public were traffic, highway safety and rat-running, harm to the character of the area, harm to ecology, “coalescence of Biddenham with Bromham and / or Bedford” and a lack of infrastructure.

Councillors have previously rejected a plan for 249 houses on the same site, and the latest move is an attempt to assuage local concerns. But objectors are sticking to their guns.

“The parish council is wholly against the proposal,” a council spokesman has told the borough planners. “Apart from it being for a very large major development, the parish council is concerned with regard to the number of vehicles this estate would generate on an already extremely busy road and junction onto the A4280. The proposal would also result in the loss of good productive farm land.”

But Bedford Borough Council’s planning officers say there are good reasons to grant permission for the scheme, which would including a new access road from Gold Lane, emergency only access from the A4280, pedestrian and cycle links, public open space, car parking, drainage, landscaping and other associated works.

They say that the site has been identified in the Local Plan 2030, and even though this has not yet received a government seal of approval, the document still has a major influence in planning terms. They also say that the council no longer has an identified five year land supply for housing.

Planning officer Greg Logan says: “Both physically and visually the existing ‘Gap’ between Biddenham and Bromham would not be unreasonably compressed, a criticism of the previous scheme.”

He adds: “The council’s policies related to preferred housing allocations and locations are out of date because the council cannot demonstrate a five year housing land supply. What this means is that the balance at the start of the assessment of the current application is tilted in favour of approval.”

The council’s report adds that the applicant has undertaken to “enter into a S106 planning obligation with the local authority to ensure and secure affordable housing, contributions to healthcare provision, on site play and open space facilities, and highway improvements.