Planning rules 'are not fair' says Bedford council's development manager

Planning officers have recommended approval despite objections

By John Guinn, Local Democracy Reporter
Wednesday, 26th January 2022, 10:28 am
Updated Wednesday, 26th January 2022, 10:30 am

A resident from a small Bedford borough parish has been told that the planning rules "are not fair" in response to his objections to a planning application.

A planning application for seven new dwellings on land adjacent to the Baptist Chapel, High Street, Little Staughton, was discussed at Monday's (January 24) Planning Committee meeting.

It was brought to the committee as there had been objections from the parish council and residents - but the planning officer's recommendation was to approve the application.

Bedford Borough Hall

The committee was told that the proposed development is contrary to a policy (7S) that considers the impact of a planning proposal on the countryside location.

However, the development will provide entry-level dwellings as promoted in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which states that local planning authorities should support the development of entry level exception sites suitable for first time buyers, or those looking to rent their first home, unless the need for such homes is already been met within the authority’s area.

Janine Laver, the council's development manager, told the committee: "There is a need for accommodation for first time buyers in the borough, and the development will provide affordable rented and shared ownership accommodation.

"The site meets the test of being adjacent to the settlement, it is under a hectare in size and the number of dwellings is proportionate to the size of the settlement.

"In addition, the design and layout of the development is considered to preserve the character and local distinctiveness of this part of Little Staughton.

"When assessing the development of a whole, the benefits are considered to outweigh any conflict with Policy 7S or any other harms. On balance the development is considered to be in accordance with the local plan and paragraph 72 of the NPPF. It is therefore recommended that the application is approved," she said.

Barry Miller, a Little Staughton resident, spoke at the meeting to share several points on behalf of himself and his neighbours, with his first point being equality and fairness.

"In July 2019, seven residents of the High Street, which backs onto the field in question, were invited by the landowner to purchase land ten metres in depth behind each property," he said.

"Two of the residents sought and paid for legal advice from your office regarding change of use from agricultural to garden.

"They were informed that such permission would not be forthcoming, the field was outside the settlement boundary and defined as open countryside and this change would set a precedent, the cumulative effect of which would be detrimental to the rural character of the area.

"Imagine our concern and horror then, when this development was put forward, a development which does not just nudge at the property line, but which drives a bulldozer nearly 13 metres through it into open countryside.

"Surely in a democracy, we live by rules, rules that apply equally to everyone. suddenly what we were denied is now acceptable," he said.

Janine Laver said: "In terms of neighbours being offered agricultural land, obviously we not party to that.

"And of course we would have probably given pre-app advice to say changing the use of that land to garden land would be contrary to policy.

"The same rules unfortunately do not apply to a paragraph 72 application, so unfortunately the rules are not fair, national government's rules are written the way they are written for a reason - because these affordable housing sites need to come forward," she said.

The committee agreed to defer its decision until after a site visit.