Bedford's local plan deemed 'unsound' by planning inspector - with mayor claiming the 'mess' could lead to more speculative planning applications

But Lib Dems say the decision is a ‘slap in the face’ to Bedford borough people
Borough Hall in Bedford.Borough Hall in Bedford.
Borough Hall in Bedford.

Bedford's Local Plan has been deemed 'unsound' by the Planning Inspectorate.

In a letter to the council, published on Monday, inspector Darren McCreery outlined "fundamental concerns about the soundness of the [2040] Plan" - including a shortfall of at least 2,000 homes, uncertainty over the delivery of large infrastructure projects, such as the widening project of the A421, and whether the East West Rail route will impact plans to develop land to provide more jobs.

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Bedford’s mayor has claimed the “mess” left by the former borough administration could mean an increase in speculative planning applications – but the Lib Dems said residents will “see through his attempt to rewrite history”.

Mayor of Bedford borough, Tom Wootton (Conservative), told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS): “I take no pleasure in saying I told you so but here it comes, to the Liberal Democrats, I told you so.

“Back in February [sic], myself and a few other councillors voted against the Liberal Democrats’ Local Plan citing concerns that it was unsound.

“Despite objections from councillors and residents the Lib Dems barrelled ahead and only nine months later… it has come back from the planning inspector for more work.

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“Sadly, this is yet another mess inherited from the Liberal Democrats and may leave the borough and residents exposed to speculative planning applications,” he said.

“Instead of trying to shift the blame the Lib Dems should own up to their mistakes and apologise to the council officers and residents for their shoddy leadership.

“But more importantly, I want to thank the council officers who have been working hard with us to decide our next steps.

“I also want to assure all residents we will do what we can to protect them from the unwanted and unplanned Lib Dem mess,” he said.

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Liberal Democrat Group Leader councillor Henry Vann told the LDRS: “The Government’s planning inspector’s decision is a slap in the face for all Bedford borough residents caused by the Conservatives’ own failure to fund infrastructure investment in the A421 which the inspector identifies as a major cause of its failure.

“This Local Plan was backed by councillors of all parties and none.

“But now, massive rural overdevelopment (and unmanageable urban development) is back on the table. If the government could properly commit to vital local infrastructure investment, this would not have happened.

“People need houses, and jobs, and this plan can deliver that – all eyes will now be on what the Tories’ plans may mean for local residents current and future.

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“Will the mayor get his government to provide the improved A421 for the planned housing or will he propose more housing sites throughout the borough?

“Residents will see through the transparent attempts to rewrite history by the mayor.”