CPRE Bedfordshire calls for the empowerment of local people

28th January 2021

CPRE Bedfordshire would like to see strategic planning decisions made more openly, with the documents made easily accessible.

The most significant locally are the development plans associated with the Oxford – Milton Keynes – Bedford – Cambridge Arc, an 85 mile long corridor linking Oxford to Cambridge and slicing through Bedfordshire. This area has been earmarked for large scale growth:

  • Development equivalent to 20 cities the size of Cambridge.
  • A population increase of 1.9 million people (twice the population of Birmingham)


Why are we concerned?

  • It will have a devastating impact on the countryside at a time when tackling climate change and biodiversity loss should be at the top of the planning agenda.
  • This level of development is not due to local need but is aimed at encouraging movement into the Arc from elsewhere in the UK.
  • Decisions are being made without open consultation and debate.
  • Agreements that appear to be being brokered outside of the public domain should be made available so that residents can be better informed.


We believe that it is important that residents have a chance to see and comment on this work. Below are a number of documents that we would like to bring to a wider readership.


Government Ambition and Joint Declaration between Government and Local Partners (March 2019)

At a glance:

  • Government and Local Authority signatories state their ambition to build one million homes across the Arc. (page 11, 1.6)
  • To give a sense of scale, the entire county of Oxfordshire has less than 300,000 homes.
  • This document has not been widely published by Bedfordshire Local Authorities and they have obtained no mandate from Bedfordshire residents.

Read the Joint Declaration


Letter dated 2 July 2019 to Philip Simpkins, Chief Executive of Bedford Borough Council from the Deputy Director of the Government Ox- Cam Arc unit within the MHC&LG.

At a glance:

  • This letter confirms the establishment and membership of the Central Area Growth Board which includes Bedfordshire Local Authorities.
  • The Board meets behind closed doors, the agendas and minutes are not published by the Local Authorities attending the meetings.
  • The Growth Board discusses and agrees with Government ambitions for growth. This includes the location of and size of new towns, new roads and other infrastructure that will have a major impact on the Bedfordshire countryside.
  • This Board has been meeting since at least 2019 (and we suspect 2018) and its decisions have never been made public as far as we’re aware.
  • The letter also confirms the existence of the Arc Group of Local Authority Chief Executives. This group of unelected officials also meets behind closed doors. The purpose of their meetings are unknown since their Terms of Reference have not been published.

Read the letter


Bedford Borough Council’s response to the East/West Rail Public Consultation on the possible routes for the East/West Rail Bedford to Cambridge section.

At a glance:

  • The response lays out The Mayor’s reasons for Bedford Borough Council promoting Route E which he says is to enable the development of new towns in the North Bedfordshire countryside. We believe that this will cause massive environmental destruction.
  • The response has never been made available on the Bedford Borough Council website or sent to Parish Councils.

Read the response


What can I do?

  • Contact your local councillors and MPs with your concerns about the lack of local consultation and the impact of the proposals.
  • Ask your Local Authority to make documents more easily available via their website, and to commit to transparency in strategic planning matters.


What else will CPRE Bedfordshire do?

  • We will continue to add documents to our website to help keep you informed and hold our Local Authorities to account.
  • We will continue to champion the need for the voices of local people to be heard.


We’ll keep standing up for the Bedfordshire countryside. Want to stand with us? Sign up now for monthly news on our work or join us as a member from just £3 a month.


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