A local authority looks set to forge ahead with a controversial £64.6m road scheme in Bedfordshire, despite objections from environmentalists and a neighbouring council.
The 2.75-mile M1-A6 link road is being recommended for approval by Central Bedfordshire Council’s development management committee, which meets today (Wednesday).
Councillors approved the project in September and the detailed plans are returning to the committee, after the Secretary of State for housing, communities and local government opted not to call it in for review.
The section of road between the M1 junction 11a and a rail freight interchange (RFI) will be a dual carriageway.
A new roundabout is proposed at the junction with the A6 Barton Road.
The 170-acre site is mostly arable farmland within the Green Belt and contains two areas of ancient woodland, Sundon Wood and George Wood, according to a report to the committee.
A scheduled ancient monument, Dray’s Ditches, is about 350m away from the road, said the report.
“The nearest residential areas in Luton borough are Sundon Park, Marsh Farm and Bramingham.”
CBC has received 102 responses, with 82 objections, along with three petitions against, 11 commenting on it, and six in favour.
Luton Borough Council considers the development is premature and has consistently called for it to be determined after the CBC Local Plan examination is completed.
It questions whether the “very special circumstances” exist to build the road in the Green Belt, and has threatened to seek a judicial review in two letters to CBC from its corporate director, place and infrastructure Laura Church.
The first letter said CBC’s decision in September “is contaminated by errors of law in the report (to councillors), which meant that it was seriously misleading”.
It added: “There is nothing Luton Council has seen which suggests that these problems were addressed before the decision was ultimately made.”
LBC previously warned that “traffic movements will be drawn through the north Luton urban area”.
Streatley Parish Council supports the application with some concerns, but Sundon, Chalton, Harlington and Barton-le-Clay parish councils all oppose it.
Their objections include the impact on the Green Belt, the AONB and ancient woodland, increased traffic and pollution, the effect on wildlife, the loss of farm land, and the impact on St Mary’s Church, a Grade I listed building.
There are also concerns about a lack of consultation with the parishes and the closure of Sundon Park Road.
CBC argues land north of Luton “adjoins the urban area and provides the most sustainable location for delivering homes to contribute towards the town’s unmet housing needs.
“Sundon RFI is wholly dependent upon the link road to secure access to the site and ensure its connectivity to M1 junction 11A.
“If the road is not be provided, the RFI could not be delivered and about 2,000 jobs would not be created resulting in a significant economic impact.”
CPRE Bedfordshire, the Chilterns Conservation Board, Natural England and the Woodland Trust also objected, while the Wildlife Trust and the Crown Estate expressed concerns over the development.
Highways England is now “satisfied the mitigation design provided by CBC for M1 junction 11A provides an acceptable way forward”, explained the report to the committee.
“As such, the response identified that the principle was acceptable, subject to detailed design.”
Its concerns included the impact on the local road network.
The report concludes: “There is nothing unlawful in the council’s consideration of this application,” while the Secretary of State did not consider the development to be premature.