Concern Growing Over Integrity of Biggleswade Town Neighbourhood Plan

26th March 2020

Local people are becoming increasingly concerned over the integrity of Biggleswade Town Council’s (BTC’s) Neighbourhood Development Plan.

A Neighbourhood Plan is a means by which local communities can get involved in the planning process and influence the planning of the area in which they live and work.

 

It can be used to:

 

  • Develop a shared vision for a town or village neighbourhood.
  • Choose where new homes, shops, offices and other development should be built.
  • Identify and protect important local green spaces.
  • Influence what new buildings should look like.
  • Help to identify new transport infrastructure requirements e.g. cycleways, bus routes etc.

 

Vested interests?

 

However, BTC’s Neighbourhood Plan Working Group which started in 2018 has very few, if any, independent members of the local community involved. The Group appears to be dominated by local Councillors including Madeline Russell (Mayor) and Ian Bond and a representative from Central Bedfordshire Council.

In addition, personnel from companies with strong vested interest in land and local housing development projects like UK Regeneration and Hallam Land Management have been invited to attend meetings of the Neighbourhood Plan Group on what appears to be a regular basis.

UK Regeneration are developers with outline planning permission for 1500 new homes opposite Kings Reach. They own the land “East of Biggleswade” designated for 4,500 new homes in CBC’s Local Plan 2035 which has still not gained the approval of Inspectors during its Examination.

Hallam Land are the developers behind the Furzenhall Road application for 450 new homes currently being considered by CBC

 

CPRE Bedfordshire comment

 

“The inclusion of vested interests on the Neighbourhood Plan Working Group without the involvement of any independent residents is extremely worrying and calls into question the integrity of the whole process.

We see no proper involvement of independent local people on the BTC Working Group. Consultation with local Biggleswade residents has been limited and mostly it’s been through a structured questionnaire developed by the Neighbourhood Plan Group itself and not a “listening” process, asking for the views of local people.

Neighbourhood Planning is something that CPRE has always championed because it provides a way for the local community to get involved with the future development of their communities, but we have huge concerns about BTC’s approach.”

The spokesperson went on to say:

“It is even more disturbing that the BTC Neighbourhood Plan Working Group has not published its “Terms of Reference” and as far as we can determine, the Working Group has never published formal minutes of their meetings. We believe that these documents should have been made available to the public as required by government legislation.”

We understand that CBC Councillors including Dr Hayley Whitaker (Biggleswade South) have formally asked Central Bedfordshire Council’s Monitoring Officer to investigate the matter.

 

 

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