Central Bedfordshire have been working on a new local plan for some time now. There is plenty more detail available here.
Whilst there have already been various elements of public engagement as part of the evidence gathering process, they have only now reached the stage of the first statutory public consultation (known in planning terms as Regulation 18). The consultation period will be open from 04 July 2017 and close on 29 August 2017 (a period of eight weeks); during that time there will also be opportunities for people to ask further questions and seek clarifications.
Residents of Caddington, Slip End and nearby hamlets will no doubt take a keen interest in the draft plan given that the dreaded phrase "west of Luton" is rearing its ugly head again. I suspect that opinion will be split on whether this is a good or bad thing; that split is not likely to be an even 50/50.
It needs to be understood that the pressure to provide new housing (and associated jobs and infrastructure) in this part of the country is overwhelming. Politicians from different sides may argue over the best way to provide this housing but none of the major parties take a position which reduces the numbers.
Central Bedfordshire can not avoid significant amounts of housing being provided in the short and medium term (this plan looks through until 2035) and, if that is accepted as fact, then it follows that having some sort of structured approach through a Local Plan is the approach needed to try and plan for and address the infrastructure issues that are intrinsically linked to sustainable development.
Failure to deliver an up to date Local Plan leaves the authority more exposed to hostile applications from developers and also at risk of Central Government intervention to take control in the absence of a plan.
The nature of Regulation 18 is consultation on a DRAFT plan; feedback received plus ongoing work on whether sites are deliverable and sustainable will then further refine the detail before Regulation 19 consultation in about a year's time. This consultation is about OPTIONS for growth; the areas up for discussion are not yet filtered down to preferred options and some may well be dropped as the process continues. Similarly, the map and accompanying narrative deals with broad locations and not specific sites. By consulting on more than might eventually be needed, there remains flexibility within the consultation process to further filter out unsuitable sites.
People can (and indeed should) play an active part in commenting on the draft plan and helping shape the further refinement of the plan over the next year; people will have right and proper concerns about their particular part of Central Bedfordshire but everyone should be absolutely clear that failing to deliver a local plan would be the worst possible outcome for all of us. Please do follow the links, study the evidence base and comment as you see fit.