Go-ahead for 4.4km Beds link road in green belt and AONB

Plans have been approved for a 4.4km link road that travels through the Bedfordshire green belt and partly through an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) after planners advised that the scheme was a "critical component" of wider rail and road improvements for the Oxford-Cambridge growth corridor.

Central Bedfordshire Council: link road approved
Central Bedfordshire Council: link road approved

Last week, Central Bedfordshire Council approved its own full planning application for the scheme which is proposed for a 69-hectare area of land to the north of Luton, between the M1 and the A6 roads.

A planning committee report said the application site is "entirely within the green belt" while a 1.6km central section "falls withinthe Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and the Chilterns National Character Area".

The report said the proposed development would form inappropriate development within the green belt and that the scheme would result in "some harm" to the Chilterns AONB, the character of the area, and the visual amenity of the countryside.

The report noted that environment watchdog Natural England had objected to the scheme as it would have a "significant impact on the purposes of designation" of the Chilterns AONB.

However, planners advised that "very special circumstances" had been demonstrated which would outweigh the harm to the openness of the green belt, and that "substantial public benefits" would outweigh any harm to the landscape and the AONB.

The report said the road would provide "a much-needed strategic link between two strategic highways, the M1 and A6".

It added that, as the scheme would connect with both the M1, A6 and the wider interconnecting network to the A5, it is "a critical component of the wider local east-west link for Central Bedfordshire that is consistent with the wide package of national infrastructure rail and road improvements for the [Oxford-Cambridge growth corridor]".

The report also advised that land north of Luton "provides the most sustainable location for delivering homes to contribute towards Luton’s unmet housing needs" and, if the road was not delivered, housing on sites in the area would be jeopardised.

It also advised that, if the scheme was refused, the delivery of a rail freight interchange in the area at Sundon, which would be "wholly dependent" on the scheme, would be put in doubt.

The report said: "Fundamentally, if the application is refused, then there would be a reduction in the future economic benefits in the area."

Planners concluded that the economic and social benefits associated with the scheme "would represent very special circumstances which clearly outweigh the harm to the openness of the green belt and any other harm, such as to the AONB, heritage assets and rights of way."


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