In their evidence to the National Infrastructure Commission's (NIC) consultation on the Oxford-Cambridge Corridor, the Mayor of Bedford (Dave Hodgson) together with the Leaders of Central Bedfordshire Council (Cllr James Jamieson) and Luton Borough Council (Cllr Hazel Simmons), have all signed up to a submission document calling for an additional one million new homes (37% increase) and a population increase of 1.6 million people (25% increase) over the next 35 years.
The document was produced in August this year by six Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) who came together to form yet another new and unelected body called “England’s Economic Heartland Strategic Alliance”. These include Cambridgeshire, South East Midlands (which includes Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes), Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire Thames Valley, Northamptonshire and Oxfordshire LEPs.
It was quietly submitted in September to the NIC during their “Call for Evidence” regarding development across the Oxford – Cambridge Corridor, and was revealed when the NIC published its interim report into the Corridor in November.
CPRE Bedfordshire believes that the proposals submitted to the NIC are totally unsustainable and are not supported by credible evidence. They have also not been made available to local people for scrutiny.
Gerry Sansom, Chair of CPRE Bedfordshire said:
“This submission document is shocking and the numbers jaw-dropping! It seems that the leadership of Bedfordshire’s Local Authorities have already decided on the number of new homes to be built in our area despite the fact that all of them are in various stages in the development of their own new Local Plans.
“Bedford Borough and Central Bedfordshire Councils will not be sending out their draft Local Plans for consultation by local people until early 2017 and yet this paper suggests that they have already made up their minds. We are concerned about what this means for local democracy.
“As far as we can determine the document does not appear on any of the Bedfordshire Councils’ websites and neither is any reference made to it. “
CPRE Bedfordshire is also concerned that in an area such as Bedfordshire with severe drinking water supply issues and designated by the Environment Agency as an area of “severe water stress”, the document fails to even mention this hugely important issue.
CPRE Bedfordshire believes that this submission document raises a number of important questions:
• Has the Mayor of Bedford and the other Council Leaders discussed and agreed these figures with their own local councillors? Have they discussed them with the residents they represent?
• How many of the 1 million new homes have Bedfordshire’s Councils already signed up to deliver as their part of the “submission”? - is their current Local Plan consultation process now just a sham?
• With regard to the paper submitted to the NIC - What precisely has been the input of the unelected LEPs? And what was the involvement of property developers some of whom sit on the LEPs?
The number of new homes proposed in this document appears to far exceed the future housing needs of local people and is based on attracting a massive increase in population from elsewhere in the UK.
The scale of the proposed housing and population growth is enormous – 1 million new homes is equivalent to:
• 10 new mega towns the size of Northampton (approx. 100,000 dwellings)
• Or, 250 small towns the size of Ampthill (approx. 4,000 dwellings)
• Or, around 700 to 1,000 medium sized villages the size of Sharnbrook or Maulden (approx. 1,000/1,500 dwellings)
The figure of 1.6 million people quoted in the report is equivalent to a city 50% larger than the city of Birmingham (pop: 1.1million).
The submission document can also be found on SEMLEP website (page 10 for comments about the need for population growth):