'Inadequate' Local Plan modifications relating to controversial housing site would fail to protect Linslade Wood from significant damage

55 homes proposed for land north of Soulbury Road

Saturday, 24th April 2021, 12:02 am
Updated Saturday, 24th April 2021, 12:04 am

Modifications to Central Bedfordshire's emerging Local Plan have done little to appease campaigners who are fighting the inclusion of a Green Belt site in Linslade for housing.

When land north of Soulbury Road (HAS33) was first designated in 2018 for development of 55 homes, it left the community dismayed at Central Beds Council's decision.

And campaigners voiced their concerns to Government inspectors at Local Plan examination hearings that followed. Concerns centred on the environmental damage, particularly in relation to Linslade Wood which borders the site.

Land north of Soulbury Road

But the Soulbury Road 1.73 hectare parcel of land remains in the small and medium allocations of the proposed Local Plan.

As part of an Examination process, Planning Inspectors may recommend Main Modifications (changes that materially affect the plan’s policies) to make a submitted local plan sound and legally compliant. These Proposed Main Modifications must be published for public consultation, so the Inspectors have an opportunity to consider any representations on the proposals prior to publishing their report on the plan. The consultation closes on May 5.

For land north of Soulbury Road it has been recommended in Main Modification 78 (MM78) that a Minerals Resource Assessment will be required, landscape buffers are needed to northern and western site boundaries, and, due to the site's proximity to Linslade Wood, particular regard must be paid to nature conservation policies.

Town councillor Clive Palmer, who organised a petition in 2018 protesting the “ludicrous” decision by CBC to include Soulbury Road for development, has written to the council pointing out that the proposed modifications are "totally inadequate" and that the housing would be "wholly inappropriate and unsound".

His view was backed by Leighton-Linslade Town Council's planning and transport committee when it met on Wednesday evening

Cllr Palmer's states: "I would submit that the proposed main modifications in relation to this site are wholly inadequate and would fail to prevent significant environmental and ecological damage extending to the surrounding area and especially Linslade Wood should development be allowed, and would still result in unacceptable damage to the wider, valued landscape area.

"In consequence, I would strongly urge... the exclusion of the site entirely from the small and medium allocations for development as being the only satisfactory course in planning terms.

"In 2013, when a planning application for a lesser number of houses than the capacity now suggested was rejected by Central Bedfordshire Council, the Landscape Planner’s expert comments on that proposal included 'visual intrusion across the Ouzel Valley to the opposite ridge line including Rushmere could be highly intrusive, have a detrimental impact on landscape character and result in visual encroachment into the wider countryside'.

"Similarly, the Countryside Access Officer noted that 'there will be a detrimental impact on the landscape setting of Linslade Wood'. It is also relevant that, over recent years, several planning applications immediately over the adjacent border with Buckinghamshire have been rejected, including on appeal, with landscape considerations very much to the fore.

"It is also relevant that, in a 2017 rejection of an appeal by a developer on the Buckinghamshire site, the Inspector commented that such suburban development would urbanise the rural-like character of the entrance to Leighton-Linslade along the Soulbury Road.

"It is clear that development of the HAS33 site would have exactly that effect especially as significant work and changes to provide pavement, access, bus stop facilities etc would be needed on this rural road."

He continued: "Linslade Wood includes Ancient Woodland and a County Wildlife Site. I calculate that almost 40 per cent of the HAS 33 boundary runs alongside the wood, principally to the north but also with a portion on the eastern side.

"The wood is rich in flora and fauna, including several bat species protected by domestic and international legislation, for which the site in question (rough pasture and hedgerows) would provide a good foraging habitat. Development of the land would undoubtedly harm the wood and its ecosystems including through noise and light pollution and the impact of additional domestic animals.

"Against this background, I would suggest that the policy requirement proposed in MM78 of attention being given to nature conservation issues when considering development proposals, is wholly inadequate in the present context.

"Indeed, it is difficult, if not impossible to understand how this site can be slated for substantial housing development when there are such basic outstanding questions and issues which bear so strongly on its suitability in principle."