The Linslade community is said to be in shock after the “ludicrous” designation of a Green Belt site for possible housing development.
Land north of Soulbury Road has been included in the pre-submission of Central Beds Council’s Local Plan, which is looking to deliver up to 20,000 new homes and 24,000 new jobs over the next 20 years.
But Cllr Clive Palmer, town councillor for Southcott Ward, says he has been contacted by a number of residents who are furious that the 1.73 hectacre site has been earmarked by CBC as being potentially suitable for 55 homes.
The site adjoins the controversial Valley Farm site (technically in Aylesbury Vale) where there was been an ongoing battle to stop Paul Newman Homes developing the land over a number of years.
Cllr Palmer said: “It is a very sensitive site, this has come out of the blue and I know a lot of people who have heard about it, are hopping mad and are getting ready to protest. It is very close to the Paul Newman site, but this one is in Central Beds.
“I strongly believe that the proposal in the pre-submission Local Plan that land north of Soulbury Road in Linslade should be designated for housing development (55 houses) is ludicrous and perverse.
“The land is designated Green Belt and most of it also part of an Area of Great Landscape Value, abutting immediately on to the sensitive area and environment of Linslade Wood.”
Cllr Palmer said a previous application to build 49 houses on the site was turned down by CBC in 2013. He said: “This was on the basis that the development would erode the openness of this Green Belt location and fail to safeguard the countryside from encroachment. It would be outside the natural limits of Leighton-Linslade’s urban boundaries and would be an intrusion into the countryside, detrimental to its appearance and character. As such it was regarded as being contrary to national planning policy.”
He pointed out that applications to build on this site had been strongly resisted by Leighton-Linslade Town Council in the past due to the negative impact on residents, including traffic. These applications include one made in 2017 by Compton Land Developments for 18 bungalows on one of the site’s three fields, which has yet to determined by CBC.
Cllr Palmer added: “The precedent of housing on this site may well give further encouragement to much larger developments on the valley side down Soulbury Road before the bypass which have been strongly resisted both by town residents and Aylesbury Vale District Council and rejected on two occasions by Government inspectors with the potential landscape damage being an important factor.
“The potential serious impact of such wider development on our infrastructure, especially roads to the canal crossing and beyond was a further worrying feature.
“The proposal would seem totally at odds with the efforts by Aylesbury Vale in their Local Plan process to designate the valley side land as Green Belt to give it added protection from future development.
“Local opinion, as demonstrated by the high volume of objections to previous proposals for significant development in the area, is strongly against building on the site.
“None of the above reasons for previous refusals, nor the planning policy relating to them, has materially changed so far as I am aware and to have this site now suddenly appearing in the Central Bedfordshire Local Plan for housing development is highly regrettable and questionable.”
Cllr Palmer said The Local Plan is open for public consultation until February 22 at www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/localplan and urged residents to make their views known to try and convince CBC that the site should be removed from the final Local Plan which will be submitted to Government.
“I would encourage all who are opposed to this proposal in the Local Plan to comment – it will not be enough to leave it to others,” he said.
CBC says the pre-submission Local Plan is now proposing about 10,000 fewer homes than the original draft. While the growth will mainly be in four locations – with a series of up to four new villages in the Marston Vale and one east of Biggleswade, plus sustainable extensions to the north of Luton and east of Arlesey – CBC says there will also be some growth in existing towns and villages, but only where services can support it.
To keep the identity of existing town and villages and the rural character of the area, the council says it has also designated 19 areas as Important Countryside Gaps, which will restrict development in these areas.