Plans for retirement community that would "overwhelm" Stanbridge refused

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"This represents a potential staggering 75 per cent increase in the population of Stanbridge”

A retirement community proposed for a Bedfordshire village is a “great idea”, but in the wrong place, a meeting heard.

The integrated scheme on the edge of Stanbridge in the greenbelt was rejected by Central Bedfordshire councillors.

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Applicant Raybridge Stanbridge Limited submitted outline plans for 99 extra care housing units, 43 affordable properties and a 66-bedroom care home on an area of land next to Leighton Road. This would involve demolishing buildings on the 12-acre site, while parking, access and amenity areas would be provided.

The location of the proposed development.The location of the proposed development.
The location of the proposed development.

But Stanbridge parish councillor Martin Walker described it as “an inappropriate development in the greenbelt”, saying: “The council objects as there are no material considerations which outweigh the harm caused. This represents a potential staggering 75 per cent increase in the population of Stanbridge, a villages with no services, no shops and very limited transport links.”

He added: “It contravenes multiple policies in the CBC Local Plan, eliminates greenbelt and overwhelms Stanbridge village.”

Principal planning officer Stuart Robinson said: “The development would have a significant adverse impact on the landscape because of the permanent removal of grassland and horse paddocks. There would be encroachment of built form into the rural landscape and an urbanised approach to Stanbridge created.

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“A new footway along Leighton Road would represent further harm to the openness of the greenbelt. The site is located on the edge of the village, which has limited services, including public transport.

“While there are some facilities as part of the care element, there isn’t specific detail around the type and access to these. It’s considered to be in an unsustainable location.

“It should be noted planning permission has been granted for a 71-bedroom care home at Leighton Buzzard garden centre and for a 63-bed care home at Hockliffe Road in the town. Both of these developments are under construction.”

Conservative Heath and Reach ward councillor Mark Versallion explained: “For four years we’ve repeatedly heard the need for this kind of development, particularly at this end of Central Bedfordshire.

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“There’s probably a division of opinion within this council about how this kind of accommodation is delivered. My position is it’s a great idea, probably in the wrong location. The site has particular challenges. It’s a finely balanced decision to make.”

Agent for the applicant Hannah Albans said: “The proposals will deliver extra facilities, such as a shop, post office, health and wellbeing provision, and consulting rooms, which could be used by a local GP practice.

“There’s also a cafe and bistro restaurant for the use of the wider community, and a transport service available for non-residents.

“The council itself has identified a requirement for some 9,000 units of older person accommodation up until 2035. It’s been recognised the demand for independent living and extra care schemes substantially outweighs supply across the district.

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“These plans would materially contribute to meet that need. The council has a record of delivering these projects across the district, such as the carbon neutral development at Millfield Green in Caddington.

“We’re proposing a new footway from the site, which links into the path on Leighton Road.”

Councillors refused the application with ten votes in favour, two against and one abstention.