Possible legal challenge lurking over Central Bedfordshire Council Local Plan housing allocation for Luton borough's unmet need

'Let's take them on. What they've offered us isn't worth anything at all. It won't help one person from Luton or our housing situation.'

By Euan Duncan
Thursday, 20th January 2022, 2:26 pm
Updated Thursday, 20th January 2022, 2:26 pm

Two local authorities in Bedfordshire could be on a legal collision course again after twice clashing in court before.

On both occasions Central Bedfordshire Council was successful after Luton Borough Council had an application for judicial review dismissed and a second refused.

The latest confrontation is over CBC's approach set out in its housing allocations scheme consultation, following the adoption of its Local Plan last year.

Central Beds Council and Luton Council don't see eye to eye over housing

To ensure that Luton’s housing needs are met the borough council would like each Section 106 (legal) agreement to specifically describe the proportion of properties in Central Bedfordshire to be made available.

LBC would "allocate this housing to households in need from the Luton housing register", according to a report to January 17's executive meeting.

And it wants "nomination requests for these properties to be sent directly to the borough council to decide who to nominate from its priority lists".

Labour Limbury councillor Rob Roche said: "The council agreed through the duty to co-operate that CBC would provide 7,350 new homes for Luton, which this authority doesn't have space for within the borough boundary.

"If all sites delivered 30 per cent affordable homes, some 2,205 properties would be available for Luton to nominate into. This has been Luton's position throughout CBC's Local Plan examination.

"CBC made it clear it didn't accept this approach and wanted to count people with a last permanent address in Luton as meeting the requirement.

"Our response essentially objects to the proposed approach."

Labour Challney councillor Tom Shaw said: "What CBC is proposing won't come as a surprise to any of us.

"They're taking some off-site contributions towards social housing, pouring all that into one site, such as the one being built at the bottom of Bidwell Hill, so some other sites are all private housing and they don't require a social offer.

"I would love us to get some independent barrister's advice as to whether or not we've got a case.

"How can you reach an agreement with someone who doesn't want to do a deal?" he asked.

"It's very 50/50 whether they're doing what the planning inspectors said by offering us an agreement through which nobody will ever get a house.

"Let's take them on. What they've offered us isn't worth anything at all. It won't help one person from Luton or our housing situation.

"When someone from Luton buys a house in Central Beds they're craftily counting it towards our allocation."

Labour Farley councillor Sian Goding asked: "Can we make it stronger? I don't think it's going to make any difference whatsoever. We've had more than ten years of this.

"I know what councillor Shaw says about a legal challenge. But part of me thinks it's pointless. It's throwing good money after bad.

"We've done a couple of legal challenges already on their Local Plan and he M1/A6 link road. We weren't successful on those.

"Whatever response we make it's just a tick box exercise. They'll stick with this policy and nobody from Luton will ever get allocated social housing in Central Bedfordshire.

"We should make it as strong and as damning on CBC as we possibly can. We should be telling them how disgusted we are. Use emotive language because it's the truth."

Councillor Roche, who's the portfolio holder for sustainable development and highways, replied: "We owe it as elected members to the people of Luton to fight this.

"We can't just sit back. They have to see we're supporting the people in this town who need these homes.

"We need a stronger response. We may to consider that legal challenge. It's when."