‘Special circumstances’ would justify approval for M1-A6 link road despite Luton Council’s opposition

M1-A6 link road
M1-A6 link road

A new road scheme linking the M1 and the A6 north of Luton is being recommended for approval by Central Bedfordshire planners, despite several objections.

The 2.75-mile project will be part-single and dual carriageway, situated on 170 acres of Green Belt land between junction 11a of the motorway and the A6 Barton Road.

The majority of the site is used for arable farmland, and the central part is in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), according to Central Bedfordshire Council.

There have been 94 responses to the planning application, with 77 objecting, five in favour and nine  commenting on the scheme, which goes before Central Bedfordshire Council development management committee tomorrow (Wednesday).

Three petitions have been submitted, one with about 1,500 signatures objecting, and a second with around 220 signatures opposed to “the impact on the countryside, the environment, climate change and the lack of consultation with Sundon”.

The third petition, with 80 signatures, objects to the closure of Sundon Park Road for vehicles up to 7.5 tonnes in weight.

The nearest homes to the application site in Central Bedfordshire are on Sundon Road. In Luton borough, the closest residential areas are Sundon Park, Marsh Farm and Bramingham to the south of the site.

A rail freight interchange (RFI) is proposed at one of the junctions along the new road, which will connect to Camford Way to the south.

This will provide the new north-south through road, as Sundon Park Road will be stopped up for motorised traffic, said a report to CBC’s development management committee.

Luton Borough Council opposes the project saying there is no need for the development and it does not include a connection between the A6 and the A505.

“In the absence of this link the scheme does not fulfil the function of an appropriate east west strategic road around the north of Luton,” said the borough council.

It warns that “traffic movements will be drawn through the north Luton urban area” and “will severely prejudice the ability of the proposed CBC allocation of mixed use housing north of Luton to provide the social and sustainable masterplanning and infrastructure expected by the local authority.”

The borough council has called for the application to be determined after the CBC Local Plan examination is completed.

Streatley Parish Council supports the application with some concerns, but Sundon, Chalton, Harlington and Barton-le-Clay parish councils all oppose it.

Their objections include the impact on the Green Belt, the AONB and ancient woodland, increased traffic and pollution, the effect on wildlife, the loss of farm land, and the impact on St Mary’s Church, a Grade I listed building.

There are also concerns about a lack of consultation with the parishes and the closure of Sundon Park Road.

The site contains two areas of ancient woodland, located at Sundon Wood and George Wood, where “two green bridges are proposed to facilitate north to south walking, cycling and equestrian usage”, added the CBC report.

The Wildlife Trust has expressed its concerns on the visual impact of the plans, while the Environment Agency objects because the “development would propose an unacceptable risk of pollution of groundwater”.

Other objectors include CPRE Bedfordshire, the Chilterns Conservation Board, the Woodland Trust and Natural England.

The proposed development would form inappropriate development within the Green Belt, said the report to CBC councillors.

“Very special circumstances have been shown and are considered to clearly outweigh the harm to the openness of the Green Belt.

“The proposed development would result in some harm to the AONB, the character of the area, and the visual amenity of the countryside.

“But it is considered that the scheme presents substantial public benefits which outweigh the harm to the landscape and the AONB.

“The funding for the project is only available for a short period of time,” added the report.

“If the application is refused, there is a high risk that the development would not be delivered with all of the suggested economic benefits for the area.

“Land North of Luton provides the most sustainable location for delivering homes to contribute towards Luton’s unmet housing needs.

“If the road could not be provided, then the deliverability and viability of the North of Luton and the RFI development may be negatively impacted.

“The RFI could not be delivered and approximately 2,000 jobs would not be created, resulting in a significant economic impact.”