As agreed by Committee at its meeting on 18 September 2019, to review the Town Council’s position in respect of the potential for a Neighbourhood Plan (report with recommendations attached).
The Committee received a report in respect of the potential creation of a Neighbourhood Plan. This was following the decision made by Committee and Council in September 2019 to not proceed with a Neighbourhood Plan at that time but to review the position in a year’s time.
In September 2019, it had been agreed to look at other ways in which to work collaboratively with Central Bedfordshire Council through the Leighton-Linslade Partnership Committee. It was proposed that additional time be granted to that committee in this respect, given the loss of six months due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Two amendments to the recommendations were proposed by Councillor C Palmer and seconded by Councillor A Dodwell: that the scope of the work be extended beyond the south side of the High Street to the whole town centre and that the matter be reviewed again in six months’ time rather than twelve months.
Comment was made that the pandemic had had a substantial impact on town centres and the result of this was not yet known. In addition, recent proposals from Government to reform the planning system in England were likely to impact upon the current Neighbourhood Plan process. In addition, it was felt that there was little land left within the parish boundary for any future substantial development, beyond land south of the High Street.
A concern was expressed regarding public frustration and it was believed that many other parishes either already had a Neighbourhood Plan or were in the process of working towards creating one.
Two separate amendments to the four recommendations were proposed by Councillor S Owen and seconded by Councillor R Goodchild. The first amendment proposed pressing the local authority to bring forward a robust action plan for redevelopment of land south of the High Street by the December Partnership Committee meeting. On being put to the vote, the amendment was not carried (4 for, 6 against, 1 abstention) (recorded vote at appendix A).
The second amendment set out the rationale for developing a Neighbourhood Plan by the end of 2021, seeking urgent dialogue with the local authority on unspent S106 developer contributions from past applications and taking a greater role in future S106 infrastructure projects and monitoring. It was felt that the Town Council’s Planning and Transport Committee had taken a passive role but that the council should play a greater role in addressing the infrastructure deficit.
It was argued that only a small minority of Central Bedfordshire parishes had or were developing a Neighbourhood Plan and that creation of such a plan was likely to take several years due to the stringent process involved. It was reiterated that the impact of the Government’s proposed planning reform on neighbourhood planning could not yet be known.
On being put to the vote, the second amendment was not carried (2 for, 8 against, 1 abstention) (recorded vote at appendix B).
The two amendments proposed by Councillor C Palmer were then put to the vote. The first was carried unanimously. The second was carried by majority (9 in favour, 2 abstentions).
RECOMMENDED TO COUNCIL:
(a) that through the Partnership Committee the Town Council continues working collaboratively with Central Bedfordshire Council (as the plan making authority) in the review of the Development Brief for the site known as Land South of the High Street, Leighton Buzzard, considering and taking into account the potential uses of other town centre sites such as Bridge Meadow and existing community facilities available in the town, to ensure that the benefits obtained for Leighton-Linslade from the Land South of the High Street site are maximised.
(b) that the merits or otherwise in the creation of a neighbourhood plan for the Town Centre and its hinterland be considered in 6 months’ time.
(c) that material consideration be afforded to the Partnership Project List by the Partnership Committee when considering any development proposals that come forward within the parish or its hinterland.
(d) that the Town Clerk writes to Central Bedfordshire Council (Development Management) to express the Town Council’s on-going need to continue to be involved in the identification of appropriate projects which qualify for S106 spend by providing development management and economic regeneration colleagues with the Partnership Project List once endorsed by Council.