The Growth Plan 2022 and Bedfordshire
Many CPRE Bedfordshire supporters will have seen media coverage of the Government’s Growth Plan and may have concerns.
Latest page update: 13th October 2022 – update on sites from Bedford Borough Council and link to a blog post from the leader of Central Bedfordshire Council, Richard Wenham.
Here we look at two key areas of the Plan, Investment Zones and Infrastructure. We also explain where Bedfordshire local authorities or projects are mentioned.
The Government say: “Investment Zones will drive growth and unlock housing across the UK by lowering taxes and liberalising planning frameworks to encourage rapid development and business investment.”
They say they are in discussions with 38 local authorities to establish investment zones in England, these include Bedford Borough Council and Central Bedfordshire Council. Luton Borough Council is not listed, nor are any other local authorities from the OxCam Arc.
The Mayor of Bedford, Dave Hodgson, posted on his Facebook page:
“As you may have seen Bedford Borough has been announced as one of 38 potential Investment Zones in the Government’s Growth Plan today.
At Bedford Borough Council we are always open to discussions on any ideas that could support the growth of existing businesses and encourage new businesses to the Borough as well as investment locally.
We look forward to early discussions and receiving further details about the Investment Zones and how they would support us in attracting businesses and help us to deliver our ambitions for the local area. One of the key elements in the information we currently have is the prospect of being able to ensure developers deliver more affordable homes for local people.
I am keen to see how being an Investment Zone can help existing businesses and residents and it remains my position that we need to see improved infrastructure locally and I will be putting this top of my list when I speak to the Government.”
On 12th October 2022 a statement was issued by Bedford Borough Council:
“The government’s proposals have yet to be fully set out, but the Council has agreed to move to the next stage of the process, which will be to look at two specific areas of the Borough to see if there would be any benefit in them becoming Investment Zones.
The two areas are: within Bedford around the Bedford Midland and St John’s railway stations; and at Pear Tree Farm at the junction of the A421 and the A6.
At present, there are no firm proposals for either of these sites, and Mayor Dave Hodgson has told the government that the Council will need firm guarantees on environmental matters, affordable housing and the threshold for non-domestic rate income before Bedford Borough could agree to become involved.”
In Central Bedfordshire, the leader of the council, Richard Wenham, has written a blog post on Investment Zones which includes:
“A possible location could be an 84-acre site in Cranfield where Marshall’s are considering relocating from Cambridge. They would join an existing cutting-edge research and aerospace innovation community. Enabling this to happen at speed will expand local employment and training opportunities.”
The Government has produced a list which “sets out infrastructure projects which will be accelerated as fast as possible, aiming to get the vast majority starting construction by the end of 2023. These projects may benefit from acceleration through planning reform, regulatory reform, improved processes or other options to speed up their development and construction, including through development consent processes. Presence on this list does not guarantee, where applicable, funding, planning consent or approval for other regulatory or permitting processes and the list is non-exhaustive of all projects which may benefit from acceleration.”
Local projects on the list include East West Rail and the A428 Black Cat scheme.
What does CPRE say?
Tom Fyans, Interim CEO of CPRE, the countryside charity, said:
‘This government’s obsession with driving growth at all costs is alarming and will not end well for the countryside or our rural communities. Investment zones are deregulation on steroids. Successive governments have already severely weakened planning controls and the outcome has been a decade of disastrous design. CPRE’s own research in 2020 revealed that 75% of all new homes were mediocre or poor quality.
‘There’s a massive shortage of genuinely affordable homes in England – if the government wants to help increase development, then it must be the sorts of homes that people actually need. These new zones will be a failure if they simply allow housebuilders to build more large expensive properties that rather than the homes local people need.
‘By weakening the Habitats Directive, the government is kicking away the key foundation of its own 30 by 30 pledge and it will critically undermine any meaningful attempt to tackle the nature emergency.
‘This government is presenting a false choice between being green and boosting economic growth. The best possible way to tackle the dual energy and cost of living crisis while kickstarting the economy is to retrofit our leaky homes.’
CPRE, along with organisations including the RSPB, the Wildlife Trusts and the National Trust have criticized the plans, warning that the proposals could roll back environmental rules.
What does CPRE Bedfordshire say?
- We are already urging Bedford Borough Council to challenge the government on the imposed housing growth target put forward in its submitted Local Plan 2040, which the Council agrees is excessive and unsustainable. It is essential that the Council should strongly resist any pressures or inducements associated with the Investment Zone programme to agree to expand the target even further.
- Central Bedfordshire Council has not yet confirmed any sites that it is putting forward as potential Investment Zones so we will be watching with interest for any activity on this area.
- On the proposals as a whole, we have significant concerns about the impact on local democracy and whether community voices will be heard.
What can I do?
CPRE Bedfordshire will continue to monitor government proposals in this area. It is important to note that at this stage very little detail exists.
We will share details of any relevant campaigns developed by conservation and environmental organisations, including CPRE.
In the meantime, you can email or write to your MP and local councilors to let them know of your concerns.