Decision on 500 new homes near Bedford delayed over sports pitch

Applicant wants to locate an all weather pitch on a playing field in Clapham - instead of on site
Proposed site for 500 new homes in Clapham. Screenshot Planning Committee 25/3/24Proposed site for 500 new homes in Clapham. Screenshot Planning Committee 25/3/24
Proposed site for 500 new homes in Clapham. Screenshot Planning Committee 25/3/24

A planning decision on 500 new homes north of Bedford has been delayed due to a sports pitch.

Bedford Borough Council’s Planning Committee (March 25) was assessing an outline planning application for up to 500 new homes and a school on land off Milton Road, Clapham.

Greg Logan, planning officer, gave committee members an update on the application.

“Information has been received from the applicants regarding a potential location for an all weather sports pitch at the King George [5th] playing field in Clapham in lieu of providing on-site provision at Milton Hill [the development site].

“A letter from Clapham Sport FC in support of the idea suggests it would result in less football fixtures being postponed due to inclement weather.”

“No exceptional case however has been put forward to justify departure from adopted policy and SPD that requires onsite provision to be made.

“It should be noted that the council’s playing pitch strategy appears to indicate that King George [5th] playing field as being in good condition,” he said.

Parish councillor Phillipa Simms, the Clapham Parish Council chair, told the committee: “[The parish council] has demonstrated exceptional circumstances to improve our current facilities in the village with the provision of an all weather pitch at the centre of the village.

“Surely, the development should be a benefit to the community it will have the most impact upon?”

Committee chair, councillor Jonathan Abbott (Lib Dem, Clapham & Oakley) asked the planning officers what would be defined as “exceptional circumstances”.

Gideon Richards, team leader development management, said: “There’s no definition of exceptional circumstances.

“We’ve had very little evidence, [we’ve been] provided one season of some ad hoc sort of information about the number of games that have been called off.

“The exceptional circumstances haven’t been made and it feels like it would be a difficult case to make.

“The policy is seeking to provide a sufficient sports pitch play areas across the village, not just in one area, and this does not provide that in terms of providing the onsite provision,” he said.

Councillor Jim Weir (Conservative, Great Denham) said the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) asks planning officers to always take account of the locality and residents.

“This seems to me that we’ve got policy over wishes and desires,” he said.

“It seems that the applicant and the parish council want to achieve the same aim, but because of a rigid policy line, without using that little bit of wriggle that the NPPF gives you, we are throwing that out,” he said.

Councillor Abbott proposed that to defer the application (21/00332/EIA) for discussions between the applicant, officers and parish council to try and come up with a suitable solution to the sports pitch issue.

The committee agreed.

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