Narrow vote saves Luton wildlife site from development

Plans for a home on the site were voted downPlans for a home on the site were voted down
Plans for a home on the site were voted down
A warning not to "undermine the integrity of the entire Luton Local Plan" was narrowly heeded by borough councillors in a planning application vote over a designated wildlife site.

Only the committee chairman's casting vote ensured a recommendation to refuse plans for a four-bedroom house on land at the back of 68 to 76 Wardown Crescent was upheld.

The application site "abuts an area of great local landscape value", according to a report to the local authority's development management committee.

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"By virtue of its location, the proposed home would lead to the unacceptable loss of part of a district wildlife site, and have a detrimental impact on the biodiversity and nature conservation of the area," said the report.

"There's also a risk it could set a precedent for other proposals in the vicinity to come forward. It's noted the site has been largely cleared of vegetation and fenced off within the last year."

LBC's head of planning Sunny Sahadevan told the committee: "If we grant permission today we'll undermine the integrity of the entire Local Plan and we would be unable to resist further development on wildlife sites.

"As head of the department, I would go beyond that and stretch it to employment land, residential and on open space," he said.

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"Members have got quite an important decision to make in terms of upholding the Local Plan, which the council adopted and has been supported numerous times by independent planning inspectors who made decisions on this site.

"It really does come down to a planning balance between the positives and the negatives.

"The two positives are an extra home and dealing with flytipping on this site. There are separate interventions the council can make for instance on the planning enforcement side.

"Now we're aware this is a vulnerable site where flytipping takes place, we can ensure it's monitored in the future. We can require the area is cleared up through an enforcement notice.

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"This is a location where we don't want development because we want to protect wildlife in the borough," he explained.

"The plan is quite an important tool for the local authority. What we can't do is undermine it because then it becomes a free for all."

The site has a long planning history dating back to the 1940s where use of the land for a bungalow was refused, added the report to councillors.

"In 1964, an application for use of the land for a bungalow was refused and dismissed at appeal. It's then had an application for one detached property refused and dismissed at appeal.

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"Another for a bungalow in 1983 was refused and dismissed at appeal, and plans for a detached bungalow and garage were refused in 1991.

"Pre-application inquires were made in 2013, 2014 and 2021, with each response consistently stating that the principle of residential development there is unacceptable."

Councillors voted four in favour of refusal, and four against, with two abstentions.

But Labour Farley councillor Dave Taylor, who chairs the committee, used his casting vote to back the planning officers' recommendation.

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