Housing plan will ‘wreck’ village near Bedford, say opponents

A plan that opponents believe will “wreck” Willington have been narrowly passed by councillors in controversial circumstances.

Wednesday, 30th October 2019, 12:08 pm
Updated Monday, 11th November 2019, 1:23 pm

A vote to REJECT Kodiak Land’s proposal for 46 homes behind Grange Way was overturned by the narrowest of margins and moments later it was APPROVED by the same four votes to three.

“This will wreck the village,” said Cllr Stephen Moon (Cons), whose Great Barford ward includes Willington. “This land is vital to the feel of the village and is not in-keeping.”

Cllr Moon told Bedford Borough Council’s Planning Committee that opposition was not from nimbies. The village has been working on a neighbourhood plan, which had identified sites to take up to a total of 63 homes. The horse paddock behind Grange Way was not on their list.

The site in Willington

Council planning officers told the committee that the neighbourhood plan had to be at a more advanced stage to be considered to have “weight” in the planning process.

The application had been the subject of a site visit, following the committee deferring a decision from the previous meeting.The committee was told that because the council does not have a five year supply of housing land, the whole process has been tilted in favour of housing developments. There have to be very strong planning reasons to refuse applications, or the council may not have a leg to stand on when developers appeal.

Cllr Moon, who is not a member of the Planning Committee, argued that giving permission would be “premature” while the neighbourhood plan is still being worked on.

“It should not be taken as carte blanche for bad planning,” he said. “This development would be bad planning.”

Committee member Cllr Alison Foster (Cons, Harrold) said: “This plan is not appropriate for the site. This piece of land should be preserved for the village.

“The land supply issue should not be an excuse for giving up on large parts of the countryside.”

And Cllr Martin Towler (Cons, Riseley) said: “It would destroy the character of the village.”

But committee chairman Cllr Jonathan Abbott (Lib Dem, Oakley) said the council had lost a similar plan in Biddenham, after developers had appealed rejection there.

Cllr Foster pressed ahead, saying there were possible issues of road safety, adding: “Our rural areas should not be prejudiced because we have a 3.1 year land supply, rather than five.

“Our rural areas are suffering,” she added.

Cllr James Weir (Cons, Kempston Rural) and Cllr Towler proposed rejecting the application. This was thrown out by four votes to three.

Cllr Max Roydon (Lib Dem, Putnoe) and Cllr Nesreen Akhtar (Lab, Queens Park) then proposed the opposite, that the application be rejected.

This was supported by four votes to three, leaving scored of members of the public upset and angry as they streamed out of the council chamber.