A future development blueprint for Central Bedfordshire is close to clearing a significant hurdle on its way to being adopted.
The inspectors considering Central Bedfordshire Council s Local Plan 2015 to 2035 have now issued their final report on the document and the examination process is now formally complete.
A special meeting of the local authority's executive is scheduled for Thursday (July 22) to authorise CBC's next steps in the process.
The council says the plan "has been subject to substantial community and stakeholder engagement throughout its preparation, and represents a positive and sustainable strategy for the area".
Initial analysis by planning inspectors Matthew Birkinshaw and Helen Hockenhull led to 91 queries, while they "expressed some very serious concerns about the soundness of the Local Plan" in a letter to CBC.
Their final conclusion recommends not adopting the Local Plan as submitted over "a number of deficiencies in respect of soundness and legal compliance".
But "CBC has requested that we recommend main modifications to make the document sound, legally compliant and capable of adoption".
They said: "Overall, we conclude that with the recommended modifications set out in the accompanying appendix the Local Plan meets the criteria for soundness in the framework".
Once adopted it would "become part of the council’s development plan for the local area and carry full weight in the determination of planning applications", according to a report to the executive.
"It will also ensure that growth is sustainable and meets the needs of the current and future populations," said the report by head of strategic growth Caroline Danby.
"An updated version of the council’s local development scheme (LDS) will be published alongside the adopted Local Plan.
"The document includes a policy commitment to undertake a partial review of the plan within six months of its adoption date.
"This will assist the council in responding to a number of emerging strategies, including the Oxford/Cambridge Arc spatial framework and potential changes to the planning system."
The Local Plan was submitted for examination on April 30th 2018, with examination hearings held between May and July 2019 and further sessions in December 2020.
CBC has allocated sites for around 32,000 new homes and makes provision for approximately 24,000 new jobs to meet the objectively assessed needs for Central Bedfordshire.
There are an extra 7,350 new homes to meet Luton’s unmet needs.
"The Government is clear that local authorities are expected to have up-to-date plans in place to guide development within their area and plan for the infrastructure, homes and jobs needed by residents," added the report.
"This is a statutory requirement and failure to do so may result in the loss of planning powers for the local authority.
"Policies are set out that seek to protect and enhance environmental and historic assets, encourage sustainability and identify opportunities to improve towns and communities."
The executive is asked to recommend to full council to adopt the Central Bedfordshire Local Plan 2015 to 2035, including the main modifications recommended within the inspectors’ final report.
"The Local Plan sets out the long-term vision and objectives for the area, what is going to happen and where, as well as how this will be achieved and delivered up until 2035," explained the report to the committee.
"It allocates sites for future growth, as well as protecting environmental assets, and constitutes a sustainable strategy informed by consultation and technical evidence."
The inspectors considered 775 responses from the consultation to their main modifications before issuing their final report this week.