Leighton ‘at risk’ of inappropriate developments after inspector decision

A planning inspector’s ruling has left Leighton at serious risk of inappropriate developments, according to a town councillor.

On Thursday planning inspector Brian Cook ruled that Central Beds Council had failed to co-operate with neighbouring councils when it put together its development strategy, following a two day hearing.

At the heart of the issue is CBC’s long running feud with Luton Borough Council, with a High Court battle between the two over plans for 5,500 homes in Houghton Regis ending in victory for CBC in December.

However Mr Cook has now ruled that evidence of co-opeartion with LBC should have been “much clearer” in CBC’s development strategy, to ensure “effective delivery of the homes and jobs needed in the Luton and Central Bedfordshire area.”

Town councillor Mike Bishop told the LBO that the decision leaves Leighton at the mercy of developers.

Cllr Bishop said: “Without an approved strategy our ability to resist unsuitable development is seriously weakened.

“Our best defence to the Valley Farm proposals would have been our ability to say ‘we’ve done our bit to meet the local housing needs.’

“The barrister for Paul Newman Homes (the developer of Valley Farm) will have a field day at any appeal by pointing out that we haven’t.

“This is the result of obstinacy by our CBC councillors who have refused to recognise the needs of Luton or their own legal requirement to co-operate with neighbouring authorities.”

A costly judicial review of the ruling looks likely, with CBC executive member Nigel Young strongly rejecting Mr Cook’s findings.

Cllr Young said: “I cannot and will not accept the Inspector’s conclusions that it is ‘inevitable’ for the area to meet all of Luton’s unmet need.

“We genuinely feel his findings are at best misguided, if not perverse, and next week I will be seeking the support of the full Council to call for a judicial review of the process.

“We are not an authority that wishes to block growth or freeze our communities in aspic. But neither are we an authority that will accept the imposition of unsustainable development which could undermine the quality and character of our communities.”