CPRE Bedfordshire requests Call-in of Willington Planning Application
In response to serious concerns expressed by the Parish Council, CPRE Bedfordshire has asked the Secretary of State, Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government, to use his legal powers to review Bedford Borough Council’s decision to approve a planning application for 46 homes in Willington (see application reference: 18/03161/MAO land rear of 16 to 26 Grange Way)
The approval by Bedford Borough Council was in direct conflict with Willington’s Neighbourhood Plan which had allocated other sites for development that they considered to be far more suitable.
The Secretary of State has the power to take over (‘call in’) planning applications. If the Secretary of State decides to call in a planning application, a planning inspector is appointed to carry out an inquiry and make the decision on the application instead of the planning authority.
Willington is a historic village and residents feel strongly that this development would destroy the character of their village by building on land that has special significance for them. The site is proposed for designation as a Local Green Space within the Parish Council’s Neighbourhood Plan.
This is another example of an application that the Borough Council has felt obliged to approve because they believe their planning policies must be set aside under the government’s transitional arrangements for planning authorities making new Local Plans (See page 7 of the latest edition of Bedfordshire Matters ‘Fears of development free for all’).
CPRE Bedfordshire has been challenging this interpretation of the rules and believe that, following the conclusion of the Local Plan 2030 Examination Hearings in July 2019, the plan should have been given more weight in deciding recent applications. Policy 3S of the Bedford Local Plan 2030 says that sites for new housing in Willington should be allocated through the Neighbourhood Plan.
The Parish Council also believe that the Planning Officer’s report to the Planning Committee did not give an accurate account of progress made on Willington’s Neighbourhood Plan, which was published for formal consultation on 23rd October 2019.
The Secretary of State issued a holding direction in November 2019 to prevent any action being taken on the planning permission, whilst he decides whether he should direct that the application should be referred to him for determination. His decision on the call in request is expected soon.
Copies of the Willington Neighbourhood Plan and Green Infrastructure Plan can be viewed here.