Approval for housing despite green belt fears

An overview of the HRN2 site west of Bidwell
An overview of the HRN2 site west of Bidwell

Plans for 1,850 homes west of Bidwell received outline planning approval today, despite the ‘harmful’ impact it would have on the green belt.

Councillors on Central Beds Council’s development committee voted to support the proposals for the large scale development, which is an add-on to the 5,150 homes due to be built to the north and east of Houghton Regis.

Plans for the 166 hectare stretch of land west of Bidwell, which has been named Houghton Regis North Site 2 (HRN2), also include a new primary school, retail space and leisure facilities.

In his report to the committee, Central Beds planning officer Adam Davies stated that the proposal would have a detrimental impact on the area but nevertheless recommended to the committee the scheme be supported.

The report read: “It would be harmful to the Green Belt due to its inappropriateness and its impact on openness.

“There would be a degree of related harm due to the loss of agricultural land within the historic landscape setting of the Thorn Spring Scheduled Monument.”

An affordable housing provision of 30% has been set for HRN2 and with a promise of additional infrastructure near the site the proposal is said to contain “wider benefits for the local economy”.

The report added: “Taken together, these represent very special circumstances sufficient to clearly outweigh the Green Belt harm and otherharm identified.”

Luton Borough Council and Houghton Regis Town Council raised concerns and objections over the plan as CBC does not currently have a Local Plan with green belt provisions in place.

CBC has dismissed calls for the proposal to be automatically refused, raising the possibility of more hostility down the line with LBC.

Both councils clashed over original plans for the 5,150 home HRN1 scheme, which LBC claimed had far too much retail provision.

In December a High Court judge ruled that LBC’s case was “wholly unarguable”.

> For more on this story see the July 29 issue of the Dunstable Gazette.