Questions, Statements and Deputations
To receive any questions, statements and deputations from members of the public in accordance with the Public Participation Procedure as set out in Part 4G of the Constitution. (This session will be held at the Chairman’s discretion and will normally last no longer than 15 minutes.)
The Chairman invited the public speakers to make their statements in accordance with the Public Participation Scheme.
Houghton Regis North Site 1
Mr Sansom, Campaign to Protect Rural England Bedfordshire (CPRE), was concerned that there had been a delay in the building of new homes as part of Houghton Regis North 1 (HRN1) despite the opening of the A5-M1 Link Road and the Woodside Link. He requested a response to the questions contained in his letters to the Leader and that the issue of land banking at HRN1 be debated at a future Council meeting.
The Leader explained that the Council had not delayed the development at HRN1. The Council’s role was to determine planning applications and it was the developer’s role to determine when those houses were built. He sought CPRE’s help in influencing Government to provide powers to local authorities to enable them to hold developers to account so that developments like HRN1 were not delayed.
Gypsy and Travellers
Mrs Dimmock, Village Focus Group, commented on the issues she had raised at the last Council meeting about the impact the gypsy and traveller sites on the local community. She felt that the Council was not addressing residents’ concerns to help the settled community live harmoniously with the gypsy and traveller community. The Village Action Group was asking the Council to set up a Stakeholder Steering Committee to put in place strategies to help tackle the issues.
Mr Gibson, Village Focus Group, felt that the Council was being complacent when dealing with enforcing planning conditions and it was leaving Central Bedfordshire open to illegal gypsy and traveller encampments. He also requested that a Stakeholder Steering Committee be set up and that the Council enforce all breaches of planning.
Ms Sutton, Village Focus Group, also requested that the Council set up a Stakeholder Steering Committee to help resolve the problems that were taking place in the south of Central Bedfordshire due to the lack of enforcement. She requested that the Council use their funding and resources carefully to help alleviate the problems.
Mr Cotterel, Village Focus Group, was concerned that the Local Plan submitted to the Planning Inspector was deficient in relation to gypsy and travellers sites. He did not feel it was appropriate for the Council to rely on windfall sites and contended that sites should be fairly spread across Central Bedfordshire.
A member of the public who wished to remain anonymous raised concern about the education of children living on gypsy and traveller sites. She was concerned that if a caravan was unlicensed the children would go unnoticed.
The Leader of the Council acknowledged the strength of feeling and confirmed that the community’s views were being taken seriously. The engagement with residents in Billington was working well and the Council would look to set up similar arrangements with the Village Action Group.
The Executive Member for Community Services confirmed that the Council was committed to strengthening its enforcement capacity to help tackle issues such as planning enforcement. He recognised the need for a coordinated approach and the Director of Community Services would bring forward proposals to ensure that the right mechanisms were put in place to address the Village Action Group’s concerns.
The High Court had just granted the Council a two-year injunction that would prevent named individual gypsies and travellers from setting up unauthorised encampments in Central Bedfordshire. It would also stop any unauthorised encampments on specific parcels of land where it had proved harder to put in place preventatives measures.
The Executive Member for Regeneration explained that there were gypsy and travellers’ sites proposed in the draft Local Plan. Guidance from Government suggested that the Council’s windfall policy was an appropriate strategy for gypsy and traveller pitches.
The Executive Member for Families, Education and Children explained that the Council took safeguarding children seriously and that he would provide a written response to the member of public concerned.
Ms Lawrence, referred to the submitted Local Plan and requested that Appendix 7, which stated that Tempsford had been identified as a location for future growth, be removed. She felt that the Council had focused on economic growth instead of housing need. She referred to the Central Area Growth Board and felt that this Board was not justified.
The Executive Member for Regeneration explained that the areas allocated for future growth would depend on infrastructure. During a refresh of the Local Plan these areas would be considered and it would be dependent on whether there was adequate infrastructure for these sites to come forward for development. The Council had to follow Government guidance and the objectively assessed need when producing the Local Plan.
The Government had sought strengthened arrangements for collaboration between councils and the Central Area Growth Board had been set up to act as the voice for the 17 local authorities within the Cambridge to Oxford Corridor. This would allow for strategic planning across the Corridor and access to financial support from the Government for the necessary infrastructure to bring forward additional homes.