Bower Lane | Hearing 10th March

Bower Lane Hearing | Eaton Bray Village Hall
Church Lane, Eaton Bray, LU6 2DJ

10am : Tuesday 10th March 2020

Firstly, we wanted to thank you all for your support of the open letter. In total, we had 484 signatures in support. An amazing response, especially when you consider the short timescale we had to work with.

As I’m sure you are aware, the next and final stage is for the Planning Inspectorate to hold a hearing. This will be at the Village Hall here in Eaton Bray on Tuesday 10th March and Wednesday 11th March.

Although this is a two-day hearing; If you can spare time to come along and show your support, the best time to attend is during the opening statements, starting at 10am on the morning of the first day.

However, you’re welcome to stay for as long as you wish (we’ll be there for the duration of the hearing) and listen to the different arguments put forward by the developers and the defence from CBC of their decision.

Thanks for your support and if you have any questions, please let us know

Mark

 


Below is the open letter we submitted to the planning inspectorate

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE PLANNING INSPECTORATE

CBC refused planning permission for 120 houses on the land at Bower Lane. The developers are asking the Planning Inspectorate to overturn that decision.

Just a few minutes of your time can help us finally stop this development

If you submitted an objection to the development on Bower Lane, you should have recently received a letter from CBC regarding an appeal hearing. To hopefully address some of the confusion, this is not a repeat of the consultation; this is an appeal by the developer against CBCs decision to the Planning Inspectorate.

We believe the vast majority of people in the local area support CBC in their decision. This was evident in the overwhelming number of people that took the time to write objections to the original application, and for many people, they want to continue to reiterate their support for CBC during this appeal process.  Even if you didn’t originally write an objection you are still more than welcome to support us at this stage.

HOW CAN YOU HELP?

It couldn’t be easier to provide your support. If you feel you can support the points we’ve outlined, then all you need to do is email info@bowerlane.org with your name and full address. If there are other people in your household who also agree with the letter, then it’s fine to include everyone’s names in a single email.

WHY WRITE AN OPEN LETTER?

To avoid the planning inspectorate being inundated with letters of a similar nature, and to reduce confusion on steps people should take, we decided to draft an open letter for the community to support, should they feel it reflects their views. Is it perfect or have we captured every point? Not at all. But we feel it reflects many of the concerns raised by people across our villages, in the limited time available.

We believe that with your support it will help ensure these points carry more weight in the proceedings.

IN SUMMARY 

The letter below covers the following points:

  • Rejection of the need to open up additional Green Belt around Eaton Bray for development
  • The Neighbourhood Plan and the importance of protecting the Green Belt to this community
  • The damage this development would do to the countryside, environment and the character of the village
  • How this development would contribute to the merging of Eaton Bray with Edlesborough
  • The increased traffic congestion the development and the proposed road layout would cause
  • The loss of perfectly good agricultural land, whether the owner chooses arable, or livestock farming

 


AN OPEN LETTER TO THE PLANNING INSPECTORATE 

  • We support CBCs decision to refuse planning permission on the land at Bower Lane, Eaton Bray. (CB/18/03308/OUT). Based on the appeal the developers have submitted we would like to submit the following comments.

OMISSION OF THIS SITE FROM THE LOCAL PLAN

  • Although the developers have had more than 6 months to review the findings of CBC and the objections of the local community, the vast majority of their appeal does not focus on the decision CBC has made, but their proposal that additional land around Eaton Bray should be included within CBCs Local Plan. It should be noted that even though this site is not included in the Local Plan, this was not cited as grounds for refusal of this development by CBC.
  • We understand the developer’s deep concern for the provision of housing across Central Bedfordshire. We also recognise there will always be a need for affordable and social housing at an appropriate level for local communities, this includes Eaton Bray. However, the NPPF is clear that changes to the Green Belt should be through strategic policies and a plan-based approach in order to discourage decisions taken at a local level. Only a strategic approach would take into the account wider opportunities available to the authority in terms of other Brown Field and Green Belt sites across the entire region.
  • During the recent examination of the plan by the Planning Inspectorate, no concerns were raised regarding the allocation of land around Eaton Bray. The Planning Inspectorate also made it clear to the developers that reconsidering ‘Omission Sites’ would be a matter for the Council should additional land be required to support the need for housing at a later stage. Our argument would be that, if additional land was required by CBC to meet housing needs, the developers would be perfectly within their rights to restate their case to CBC at that point. But this appeal process is not the appropriate forum for discussion on such matters, as clearly decisions of this nature can only be made through a balanced consideration of all of the alternative land available.
  • Even if the broader needs for housing are taken into consideration, this application should be seen in terms of the overall contribution it would deliver (less than 00.4% towards the 39,950 target) when compared to the irreparable damage to the Green Belt and the rural character of our village.

THE NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN

  • A significant event since the original application is that on 3rd October 2019, the Eaton Bray Parish Council (EBPC) Neighbourhood Plan (NP) was overwhelmingly passed, with more than 91% respondent approval through referendum. This is the result of a number of years of effort and engagement with the village. Throughout the consultation process, the protection of the Green Belt around the village was repeatedly viewed as the highest priority for local residents.
  • A range of important policies relevant to any application are included in the NP, but one that is specifically important to this appeal is the identification of this site as an important ‘Local Gap’ in order to reduce the coalescence of Eaton Bray with the neighbouring village of Edlesborough.

GREEN BELT 

  • Significant protection is offered to land designated as Green Belt and changes to the Green Belt boundaries should only occur when exceptional circumstances can be evidenced.  The very special circumstances (VSCs) outlined by the developers in their application were either rejected or given limited weight by CBC. The appeal provides no argument or evidence to dispute CBCs decision on these matters so it can only be assumed the developer accepts their appraisal.
  • The developers continue to suggest the need for affordable housing as a very special circumstance. Although important, and a policy requirement for any large development, this cannot be considered as a very special circumstance specific to this particular site and location.
  • Beyond policies and planning processes.  It is unquestionable that a development of this scale would have a dramatic and negative impact the things we value as a rural community, the openness of the countryside and character of our village.

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT

  • The proposed road layout would require the developers to rip out the entire 300m long, 2.5m wide mature hedgerow. The loss of habitat and biodiversity at the edge of open pasture land at this scale could not be mitigated. Hedgerows take decades to mature and their biodiversity increases over time. To remove an established hedgerow will take a generation to recover if it recovers at all. Even if replanting was to occur, the result would be a thin corridor of hedgerow sandwiched between the road and the development. A necessary wildlife corridor would be lost. Yet in the appeal, the developers continue to claim that the hedgerows would not only be maintained but ‘enhanced’.
  • Once forming part of a network of damson orchards across Eaton Bray, the use of this land as pasture has allowed wildlife and biodiversity to thrive across the site. Kites, other birds, small mammals, badgers and foxes all access this land. Even the orchard, neglected and left in a poor state by the landowner, now has a high value in terms of ecology and biodiversity. 
  • The appeal also continues to claim that the site is well contained by existing, mature landscaping, however as already described, their own proposals remove most of the mature landscaping along the entire length of Bower Lane. 

CHANGE IN CHARACTER

  • We believe that to mitigate the traffic impacts the proposed highway scheme will not just radically change the character of Bower Lane but the character of Eaton Bray. Dragons teeth road markings, priority narrowing, red coloured road surfacing and speed reduction chicanes are completely out of character with this area and items you expect to see in a new town rather than a rural village.

THE SITE AND COALESCENCE

  • Although rejected by both CBC and local residents, the appeal continues to state that this site is residential infill, conveniently characterising the length of Bower Lane as a settlement edge rather than an approach road into the village. This is not the case. Housing along Bower Lane is sporadic, with the first half of the entire 0.4km road only including one detached house, and one house under construction. More than half of the land proposed for development falls beyond even the smallest cluster of homes and as such cannot possibly be classed as infill.
  • As highlighted by both CBC and the Neighbourhood Plan, the site provides an important local gap to stop coalescence with Edlesborough. We accept that Eaton Bray and Edlesborough meet on Moor End, the road linking the two villages, but each village continues to retain its own separate and distinct identity and character. This development radically alters the relationship between the two villages, conflicting directly with one of the five purposes of the Green Belt.

INCREASING CONGESTION 

  • With additional housing, we will also see additional traffic. We have already seen a significant increase in traffic moving from East to West through the village in order to gain access to Junction 11A of the M1. Give the rural location and poor public transport, this development would be expected to place even more congestion, not just at this location but also leading into the village. 

LOSS OF AGRICULTURAL LAND 

  • At present this land forms a large pocket of pasture land, currently used for grazing but of a sufficient quality that it could be used for other agricultural purposes by the landowners. As part of the appeal, the developers have provided arguments relating to the retention and workability of Grade 2 soil. However, the decision by CBC was based on the overall loss of best and most versatile agricultural land, of which all of the land marked for development would fall under, not the specifics of the soil type.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

It couldn’t be easier to provide your support. If you feel you can support the points we’ve outlined, then all you need to do is email info@bowerlane.org with your name and full address. If there are other people in your household who also agree with the letter, then it’s fine to include everyone’s names in a single email.


COMMON QUESTIONS

  • Can I send a single email for everyone in the household? Yes, as long as everyone has read the letter and feels the can support the points we’ve raised.
  • How old do you have to be to support this letter? There is no fixed age, but as guidance, we would suggest a reasonable age would be anyone 13 or over.
  • How will you use your data? Only the names and postcodes will be passed to the Planning Inspectorate in the letter we submit; however, we will retain the full list in case they have questions over the quality of the data we are providing.
  • How will I know you have received my support? As soon as we’ve had a chance to record your details, we’ll send a confirmation email. If you have not received an email after 48 hours, please let us know.
  • Can I also send additional comments? Of course, this doesn’t prohibit you from sending your own comments to the inspectorate if you feel there additional points you would like to make.


Thanks for your ongoing support
and please feel free to get in touch if you have any questions.

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