Failure for rural campaigners' bid to stop new M1/A6 link road
An attempt to stall a £64.6m Bedfordshire road scheme by countryside campaigners has been rejected.
But the controversial M1/A6 link road could still face delays as Highways England has concerns over the possible impact on surrounding routes.
The mix of single and dual carriageway from junction 11a of the motorway to the A6 Barton Road was approved by Central Bedfordshire Council’s development management committee in September.
The project was referred to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick, as part of the site is within the Green Belt.
Several groups and organisations wrote separately to Mr Jenrick alerting him to their concerns about the scheme, which covers 170 acres.
These include Luton Borough Council, the Chilterns Conservation Board and countryside charity CPRE, which expressed its disappointment at the decision.
“We believe that the Secretary of State has abdicated his responsibility by refusing to consider the application by public inquiry,” said Gerry Sansom, from Bedfordshire CPRE.
“He has decided instead that the project, which will result in severe damage to the Bedfordshire Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, is a local matter.
“The Bedfordshire Chilterns AONB is a landscape of national importance and should be treated as such.
“The implications of this decision are massive, calling into question this government’s commitment to protecting areas of outstanding natural beauty, not just in Bedfordshire but across the country.
“This is an important landscape for residents and visitors, with two ancient woodlands, some of which was planted before 1600.
“There could be more water to flow under the bridge,” he added. “There’s still been no formal notification of its planning application on the CBC website.”
The letter sent on behalf of the Secretary of State to CPRE regarding their Chilterns AONB call-in request, said: “The government remains committed to giving more power to councils and communities to make their own decisions on planning issues.
“It believes that planning decisions should be made at the local level wherever possible.
“The call-in policy makes it clear that the power to call in a case will only be used very selectively.
“The Secretary of State has decided, having regard to this policy, not to call in this application.
“He is satisfied that it should be determined at a local level.”
The call-in request by the CPRE was trying to halt the planning application and secure a public inquiry, during which the plans could be reconsidered.
The development includes a rail freight interchange at one of the junctions along the new route.
Independent Toddington councillor Mary Walsh posted on social media: “Highways England has put a stay on the decision on the road until January over doubts of the ability of the M1 J11a and A5120 to cope with the increase in traffic.”
A Highways England spokesperson said: “Our aim is to keep the road network free-flowing for all drivers.
“While we’ll look to fully support Central Bedfordshire Council’s proposals for the M1/A6 link road, we need to be sure there won’t be a negative impact for drivers on the M1 or A5.
“We’ve requested further technical work to be completed to show there won’t be.
“Meanwhile, we’ll continue to work closely with the council to resolve these concerns.”