Planning blueprint for Central Bedfordshire 'dramatically understates' climate change says councillor

The local plan has no energy strategy, she added
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Climate change is “dramatically understated” with no energy strategy outlined within a planning blueprint for Central Bedfordshire, a meeting heard.

A review has begun of Central Bedfordshire Council’s Local Plan, which sets out future strategic policies and proposed development across the area until 2035.

These include housing and industrial growth, development in the countryside and greenbelt issues, along with sustainability measures.

Central Bedfordshire Council headquarters, Chicksands.Central Bedfordshire Council headquarters, Chicksands.
Central Bedfordshire Council headquarters, Chicksands.

The local authority adopted the document in July 2021, its executive was told. “It would be premature to conclude the review in the absence of key decisions on critical infrastructure,” according to a report to the committee.

“This includes East West Rail, and future updates to national policy and plan making,” said the report. “Once there’s more certainty around these issues, the review process can be completed.

“A further report will be presented to the executive and full council with a recommendation on the need for any update and its scope, if required.”

Conservative Caddington councillor Kevin Collins told the committee: “That adoption process included a commitment for a review afterwards, something we’ve started by considering all elements of it.

“We’re trying to identify what requires updating or revision, sooner rather than later,” he explained. “This isn’t the time for further detailed work which may emerge because of those uncertainties.

“A decision for positive action isn’t required. The recommendation is noting progress and that a further report will come through this council’s systems in due course.”

Independent Linslade councillor Victoria Harvey described the pressures over climate change as “dramatically understated, considering a good sustainability plan has been produced”.

She warned: “We’ve not developed an energy strategy. Even keeping to the UK’s pledges, we’re still as a world heading for dangerous climate change.

“I’m disappointed this subject isn’t made much stronger. There’s a need to strengthen targets for modal shift.

“It would be good to see the council’s own departments follow the Local Plan. It’s questionable whether land south of the High Street consultation for Leighton Buzzard is in accordance with the policy on town centre retail.

“This review requires a commitment to the current plan while it lasts, and a real step change in climate and healthy living.

“We need a Local Plan with that practical expertise, while forward looking aspects can be implemented. I wish there was higher ambition in this report.”

Liberal Democrat Linslade councillor Peter Snelling asked about the time scale for the plan relating to East West Rail, adding: “Finance has been agreed by the government to progress this.”

Executive member for planning and regeneration councillor Collins replied: “The sustainability team needs to be part of strategic growth and is aware of those concerns.

“I expect it to be a key player and informing work as that strategic growth team to take the plan forward.

“Land south of the High Street is a live consultation We’re examining all the potential uses and getting views to inform future decisions. I encourage people to engage with that.

“The time scale is uncertain and will be influenced strongly by East West Rail and also housing targets.”