Update on Bower Lane

If you submitted an objection to the Bower Lane development, you should have recently received a letter from CBC explaining that minor amendments had been made to the proposed road layout at the site. After checking with CBC, you are under no obligation to respond and your current objection still stands, this is simply an opportunity to raise any additional concerns that relate to the amendment (for instance road safety, traffic congestion, or the impact it would have on the character of the area).

The developer has also written public letters to CBC, responding to the concerns raised by residents and organisations during the consultation. These letters are covered below.

If you feel strongly about either of these two items, you can go straight to the CBC objection page by following the link: submit an objection.

The deadline for submitting objections is 3rd April 2019.

Highways Amendment to the Bower Lane Proposal

The initial highways plan had included roundels (painted road) and ‘off-road’ parking along the Bower Lane terrace. The additional elements proposed in this amendment are:

  • A speed reduction chicane located outside of the cemetery
  • A second, longer chicane marked as priority narrowing
  • A bend introduced into the road where the current white gate stands

These changes can be seen in the image below. Or the PDF can be downloaded here:

Public Responses by the developers to the consultation

Following the consultation, the developers have provided their arguments (rebuttals) to the concerns raised.

In my personal view, the developers have simply restated their original opinions or intentionally provided misleading information to convince CBC this development is justified. However, it is important that you form your own opinion, so I’ve provided links to the public letters and some of the key points raised below.

What if I want to raise additional concerns?

Even if you’ve already submitted an objection, should any of the responses provided by the developers cause you additional concerns; you are free to share your additional views to CBC by clicking on the following link: submit an objection

As there is a lot of material, I’ve attempted to pull out some of the key points below. This is not exhaustive, so if you feel there are any points I’ve missed or misunderstood, I’d welcome your comments and will update this page. At the same time, if the developers read these comments and feel that any are inaccurate or unfair, I would be happy to hear their views.

The Developers Accept This Site Functions as Greenbelt

The developers clearly accept (Neighbour Consultation Rebuttal Letter 24-01-2019 p7) that this land is not just allocated as greenbelt but assists in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment. “And that it is no worse than any similar site”. In the same paragraph, they also accept that there is a need to restrict the growth and sprawl of the village into the surrounding countryside at this location. Two key purposes of the greenbelt provided at this site.

Seven of the Ten VSCs Outlined Are Not Special Circumstances

The developers made minor amendments to the ten Very Special Circumstances (VSCs) within the Neighbour Consultation Rebuttal Letter 24-01-2019 (p6-7). Only three of the VSCs listed might be considered to meet a local opportunity or prior need. The remaining VSCs are either generic in nature and cannot be considered special to this site, or only meet issues that would arise if the development were to proceed.

A full breakdown of the circumstances put forward by the developer for releasing greenbelt land can be found here shortly.

There Will Be Limited Public Access to the Orchard 

CBC stated concerns that “the development will have a highly detrimental impact on green infrastructure… including historic orchards and structural landscaping associated with the site.” The developer’s state (Landscape Consultant Rebuttal 06-12-2018 section 5.15) “The existing mature tree orchard is proposed to be retained and enclosed with a controlled service access and does not permit public access generally. This measure will minimise the pressure of use and impact on this valuable habitat and historic landscape feature.”

Protecting Orchards Within the Neighbourhood Plan 

The developers state (P508 Consultation Rebuttal Letter 22-11-2018 p5) that “within the emerging Neighbourhood Plan, one of the objectives is to protect existing orchards with the aim to increase fruit-bearing trees. The proposed development is proposing the retention of an existing orchard with opportunities for enhancements, in line with the village’s draft Neighbourhood Plan.” The parish council have been absolutely clear on their unwillingness to take on the liability for the neglected orchard on this site. This orchard is already protected with a preservation order and the level of neglect is highlighted in the developer’s P508 Habitat and Protected Species Survey (Ref. PHE1529) 29.08.18 (p4) stating that this is an “unmanaged orchard containing dead and declining tree species.”

Traffic Figures

The developers state (Neighbour Consultation Rebuttal Letter 24-01-2019. p1 point 5) that the highways consultant has assessed the potential impacts on the road network and has noted that “the proposed development will only add approximately 1 vehicle every 1 ½ minutes in the peak period which will have negligible effect on the capacity of the road network.”

This figure is potentially misleading. The P508 Transport Statement 29.08.18 (paragraph 4.8) calculates the overall impact to be twice this value, estimating that one car would enter or leave the housing estate every 45 seconds. The value quoted is a simple 50/50 split suggesting that the traffic generated from the site could then travel in an easterly or a westerly direction.

The estimate of 45 seconds per car is also considered low. Of the 120 three or four bedroom houses, with no public transport, their suggestion is that only 50 cars would leave between the hours of 8:00 am and 9 am and only 47 would return between the hours of 5:00 pm and 6:00 pm.

Information on Cycling and Bus Services

The developers continue to make the argument (Neighbour Consultation Rebuttal Letter 24-01-2019 p4) that the site is within cycling distance from Leighton Buzzard and Dunstable. Yet make no reference to the safety of cycling on busy 60mph country roads or consideration to those people that are not physically able to make this type of journey. Cycling to Leighton Buzzard would also include cycling along or crossing the A505.

The developers state that “There are bus stops near the site that provide access to the bus services that serve the village.” And that “Residents will not be reliant upon the car to access everyday services”. There are only 9 services per day (P508 Transport Statement 29.08.18 p5) to Dunstable (route 61) giving residents a choice of either a 6.25am or an 8:37 am outward journey and a latest return of 7 pm. There are only 6 journeys per day to Leighton Buzzard (Route 43/162). These figures do not include the complexity of onward connections to work or other locations.

Funding and Need For Highway Improvements

The developers now claim (Neighbour Consultation Rebuttal Letter 24-01-2019. P3) that there is “there is no funding for [highway] improvement, without this project.” Parking space on Bower Lane is not currently an issue. Funding for traffic calming measures is within the remit of the Local Parish Council should the local community choose to prioritise this spend. The remaining changes are there to serve the development and would not be required if this development did not proceed.

Agricultural Land Classification

The figures presented by the developers (Neighbour Consultation Rebuttal Letter 24-01-2019. P5) are potentially misleading. All of the land designated for housing on this site is of a Very Good (land with minor limitations to agricultural use) or Good quality (land capable of producing moderate to high yields) based on the Agricultural Land Classification.

The moderate quality land is within the Orchard and is not set aside for development (P508 Agricultural Land Classification (Ref. RAC 1780) 29.08.18 p20).

Incorrect statements relating to site boundaries

The developers incorrectly state that the site is “is already bounded on three sides by existing development” and enclosed by “western, northern and eastern boundaries which overlook the site”. (Landscape Consultant Rebuttal 06-12-2018 section 5.11 and 5.14). There is no housing on the eastern boundary of this site.

Whilst it is accepted that there are a small number of properties along the 0.4km of Bower Lane forming the northern boundary to the site, this is not perceived to form an urban edge to the village (5.11) but housing along an approach road into the village. This can clearly be seen from either a site visit of google maps.

The definition of countryside

The developers claim that the site is a transitional space and of a different nature to the surrounding agricultural landscape (Landscape Briefing Note section 5.6.4). The definition of the countryside is not restricted to open agricultural land and hedgerows form a critical part of our countryside.

Statements on Infrastructure Funding

The developer’s state (Neighbour Consultation Rebuttal Letter 24-01-2019 p5) that Funding would be provided to the council (S106) to mitigate potential impacts of the proposed development on the local infrastructure. However, no evidence or calculations are provided as to whether the level of funding provided would be sufficient to improve a village infrastructure that is already beyond capacity.

Statements on Affordable Dwelling Demand

The developer’s quote (Neighbour Consultation Rebuttal Letter 24-01-2019 p2) a need for 843 affordable dwellings per year. The Strategic Housing Market Assessment referred to (SHMA, 2017) relates to the overall demand across the whole of Central Bedfordshire and Luton; and includes the more complex demographic needs of Luton, Milton Keynes and Dunstable. They provide no details to whether the actions already in place by Central Bedfordshire and Luton will already meet this demand or evidence for demand at a local level.

Claims On The Need for a New Recreational Space

The developers claim (P508 Consultation Rebuttal Letter 22-11-2018 p2) “A priority of the Council’s Recreational Open Space Strategy, located within the Parish Schedule for Eaton Bray, is for the introduction of new informal open space” and “The proposed provision on site would clearly offer much needed informal recreational space for the village.” Given the rural nature of Eaton Bray, as well as convenient access to parks in Eaton Bray and The Green in Edlesborough there is no evidence of a local need for a new recreational space. The need for a new recreational space is not included within the Neighbourhood Plan.

Statements with regard to Open Space

The leisure officer provided a number of requirements for open space. In response, the developer’s response was “there is a large provision of open space on the site which is designated as landscaped buffers and green space, which can be used as and counts towards the required open space provision.” However, it is clear from the Landscape Consultant Rebuttal 06-12-2018 that the landscaped buffers are not designed to encourage pedestrian access (5.17) and as already covered the same document states (5.15) that general public access to the orchard would not be available.