Skip to content

CPRE Bedfordshire speak at Planning Committee re: 500 houses in Clapham

4th April 2024

CPRE Bedfordshire’s Gerry Sansom attended the Bedford Borough Council Planning Committee Meeting on Monday 25th March 2024. He commented on Planning Application 21/00332/EIA which concerned plans for 500 new dwellings in Clapham.

His comments are reproduced in full below. They highlight issues with Reserved Matters, affordable home delivery, ownership of green spaces and the sewage system.


This is a very large and important planning application for 500 new homes.

In terms of scale, it is approximately half the size of the nearby village of Oakley which has around 1,000 homes.

CPRE Bedfordshire is very concerned that a planning application of such importance, is being put forward for approval this evening, with a huge number of extremely important issues set aside to be decided in private between Bedford Borough Council and the developers under what are called Reserved Matters, with no further opportunity for members of the public to comment on the final agreements made, other than if a Borough Councillor decides to call- in the application at the Reserved Matters stage when all decisions will have been made.

No full public consultation on Reserved Matters will be held.

Issues such as:

  • The Amount & Type of Affordable Housing.
  • The Design of the Housing – an issue of importance to Clapham Neighbourhood Plan.
  • The Amount, Size and Location of Public Open Green Space including children’s play areas.
  • The ownership and Management of that Public Open Green Space.
  • Cycle Paths and Footways generally, but specifically from the new development to Lincroft School in Oakley.
  • The Sewage System and the provision of a sustainable system with sufficient capacity to service the new development.

These Reserved Matters discussions between developers, utility providers and the Council or, “cosy chats” as some call them, have so far resulted in:


The Council’s Affordable Homes target not being achieved

The Council is failing to achieve its target that 30% of new homes should be affordable – actual for the period 2022/23 – 21.9% – way below target! Of this, homes for social rent aimed at people on the lowest incomes are almost non-existent.


Ownership of Open Green Space – residents are being “ripped-off” by management charges

With the agreement of the Council, the ownership of public Open Green Space is being held on to by developers who have set up Management Companies to maintain all Public Open Space, including children’s play areas. This is instead of the Public Open Spaces being passed over to Parish Councils. Management Companies are then charging residents between two and four times the amount that a Parish Council would charge for the same service. With no democratic accountability as would be available with the Parish Council, and no limit on the Management cost increases year on year. Profits in perpetuity for developers / landowners. A rip-off, with memories of the leasing scandal.


A Failing Sewage System – flooding the River Great Ouse with sewage

This development will use the Bedford Sewage Treatment Plant near Priory Country Park. It is currently operating beyond its capacity – regularly over-spilling sewage into the River Great Ouse. Sewage is also backing –up across certain areas of Bedford Town. This has come about because Bedford Borough Council believed Anglia Water when they told them that they would make sewage capacity available for housing developments.

No one has confidence in Anglia Water, including the Environment Agency which has asked for full details of the action that Anglia Water intend to take.
Anglia Water has failed to respond.


Concluding remarks

The Council is determined to push ahead with this application.

The way in which Bedford Borough Council handles planning applications, and specifically the use of the Reserved Matters process, cannot be allowed to continue.

Their priority, it would seem, is to developers and landowners and not to their electorate, the residents of this Borough.


You can watch the meeting online. Our remarks are at 16:30.

Sven Mieke / Unsplash