Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Bedford Development Framework – Allocations and Designations Plan, May 2009

22nd May 2009

Martin Tidy

Bedford Borough Council

Planning and Housing Services

Town Hall

St Paul's Square


MK40 1SJ

Dear Mr Tidy

Bedford Development Framework – Allocations and Designations Plan, Invitation to submit potential sites for inclusion in the Plan

- Land Adjacent to 156 High Street, Riseley

Following my recent letter dated 6th April, I now write with regard to the matter of demonstrating need in accordance with Policy CP14 in the Council's adopted Core Strategy and Rural Issues Plan.

However, to do this, I believe it is necessary to run through the background to my clients proposal in order to establish the context in which the arguments set out in the letter can be understood. This will greatly assist you in your understanding of why my clients are seeking an amendment to the Settlement Policy Area and a change in the allocation of the land.

The site, land adjacent to 156 High Street Riseley, is currently allocated as Important Open Space and lies outside the defined Settlement Policy Area. It is unclear what the reasons were for identifying the land as an Important Open Space as it does not perform any useful function, is barely visible from public vantage points, apart from glimpses through the hedge along the footpath along its southern boundary. The land is in private ownership and therefore does not contribute to any recreational / community benefit. We believe there are convincing reasons why this land should be re-designated from Important Open Space and for part of the land to be included within the Settlement Policy Area, to allow the development of a single dwelling.

The previous submission made by Philips Planning Services (PPS) on behalf of my clients, highlighted that the reason for submitting the representation was to secure the construction of a single, low impact eco-home. This remains the key objective however, what was less clear in that submission was the extent of the boundary change being sought. The previous submission via a red line plan, indicated that the whole site should be included within the SPA and reallocated as a housing site. It is very important to make clear that the proposal is only for a single dwelling which would sit at towards the frontage of the site, close to the High Street and therefore the majority of the site would remain open and although part would become domestic garden, the rest could lie outside a redefined SPA boundary. It is the intention that this would be a low maintenance garden with a very natural appearance minimising any potential impact on the surrounding area.

As such the Council should view this representation within that context, i.e. only part of the site is being proposed for any form of physical development and even then, the proposal is for a low impact dwelling. The attached plan shows the area of land which will be developed and extent of "garden" and therefore the land which could remain outside a redrafted SPA boundary.

As explained in the previous submission, the land forms a small gap in an otherwise built up frontage, with development in depth on three sides. The south eastern boundary is strongly defined by hedgerows and trees, thus minimising any impact on the open countryside beyond. In fact the topography of the site and design of the proposed dwelling means that the dwelling would be barely visible from the road. The site sits 1.6m higher than the High Street and the proposed dwelling would be for a single storey property that will be dug into the ground as well, thus reducing its overall impact. As a result the general perception of the site for most passers by would be of no change.

Given its location i.e. sandwiched between existing development, it is our view the wider site will come under increasing pressure for larger scale development over the longer term, most likely for market led housing. And at 0.5 ha, it could potentially accommodate up to 15 units or more (assuming a minimum density of 30 dwelling per hectare). In our view development on this scale would have a significant impact on the village. Where as a single low impact dwelling (as proposed) would a) prevent the wider site being developed and b) ensure the maintenance of a more natural landscaped character for the majority of the site.

This proposal provides an exciting opportunity to develop one of the first "market" led eco homes in Bedfordshire (as far as we are aware). The proposed dwelling extols many sustainable features and the current design approach is to achieve a zero carbon property. There are two objectives, firstly to minimise the impact on the environment and secondly to provide a home for my clients that would significantly reduce the ongoing running costs of a property allowing them to retire to a smaller and cost efficient property but still within the village.

My clients have lived in Riseley for nearly 40 years and are conscious of the needs of the village and the need to protect it from unchecked development. They also are aware of the need to be sensitive to neighbours and other residents of the village. As a result they have spoken to friends, neighbours and other residents in the village about their proposals for the land. To date they have received many positive comments about their proposal. Certainly it is not the usual proposal (i.e. a large 5 bed executive house) that generates negative comments and objections. People are genuinely interested in an eco house and think that it is a good idea. Whilst it is acknowledged that public support is not a planning argument, it does demonstrate that local people do not view the land as a particularly important open space and therefore indicates that they are comfortable with the development of this land for a single eco home.

It should be noted that precedent has been set for the reallocation of land from important open space, when it is judged not to hold any special merit. The Inspector who conducted the Public Inquiry into the adopted Local Plan, dealt with an objection by Charles Wells Ltd relating to land adjacent to the Old White Horse Public House, Riseley. This land was also designated as Important Open Space and lay outside the SPA. Charles Wells Ltd sought the removal of this designation and for the SPA to be redrawn to include their land in order to accommodate a scheme for 28 dwellings. The inspector accepted the arguments put forward by Charles Wells Ltd, that the land did not deserve special status as important open space and consequently recommended the Important Open Space designation be deleted from the plan. The Inspector specifically stated:

"4.2.326 However, although the land is pleasant and rural, it is little more than that. The location is semi rural, not a green vista set in the midst of the village. The effective depth of view into the site extends little further than the screen of trees along the brook, although this is less true when this screening vegetation is leafless. I agree with the objector's contention that it neither alters nor affects the overall character or pattern of the settlement. I consider that it does not deserve special status as an Important Open Space, in terms of the qualifying attributes set out in paragraphs 5.48 – 5.52 of the Deposit Plan."

Although the Charles Wells proposal sought the reallocation of the land and extension of the SPA to allow a much larger development scheme, the key attributes that applied to that site are similar to and are evident in relation to my clients land, if not more so. My clients land is pleasant and semi rural, but is not of special merit. It is not possible to see into the site from the road given the height difference and existing trees and hedgerows screening the frontage. The site is also surrounded by built development on three of its boundaries and finally the land is in private ownership and therefore it performs no useful function in open space terms. As a result and in accordance with the reasoning given by the Inspector into the land adjacent to the Old White Horse PH, my clients land should have the allocation of Important Open Space removed and the SPA redrawn to include their site.

Furthermore, it is clear reading the Inspectors report that the village of Riseley is described as a linear village, with only pockets of incursions in the countryside and this is a strong characteristic of the village. Therefore larger development proposals should be limited, given they would have the potential to adversely affect the historic pattern and character of the village. My client's proposals would ensure that a) future larger scale development proposals are prevented from coming forward on this site and b) would respect the natural built line of the village, whilst allowing for the organic growth of the village.

The previous Inspector concluded that Riseley was not suited to accommodate large scale development proposals and was more suited to small scale proposals, specifically stating "Riseley would be more suited to accommodate development in the form of infill and small sites, …" . It is clear that some form of development in the village is welcomed and should be accommodated to maintain viability. It follows therefore that if development is to come forward in a small scale manner, i.e. infill or small sites, which respect the character of the village (which is accepted as being linear in nature) there are only a handful of possible sites that could deliver such development, my clients land being one of them. This leads me on the question of need and the primary purpose of this letter.


In accordance with Policy CP14 of the Core Strategy, it is necessary to prove there is a need for development in rural areas.

Policy CP14 Location of development in the Rural Policy Area states:

"In circumstances where there is a proven need for development to be located in the Rural Policy Area, most new development will be focused in or around the edge of key service centres where employment, housing (including affordable housing), services and other facilities can be provided close together.

In rural settlements defined by a Settlement Policy Area boundary which are not designated as Key Service Centres, such development will be restricted to that which is required to meet local business and community needs and to maintain the vitality of those communities."

Obviously Riseley falls to be considered as a rural settlement. It is defined by a SPA boundary and for the reasons stated above, this representation seeks to include the land within the SPA. As you will be aware a note produced by the Council, provides advice to applicants in the interpretation of CP14 and how the policy will be applied in the determination of applications. We have reviewed this advice and consider that in terms of need, my clients' proposal sits comfortably with the Council's criteria for establishing need and justifying development in rural settlements.

The advice note states that in interpreting "proven need" regard should be taken of three things: advice in PPS7 in relation to maintaining the vitality of settlements; the fact that there will always be a need for incremental development within settlements; and the fact that need will have to be interpreted differently owing to the type of use proposed and location of development, i.e. the need for large scale development on the edge of a large town will be easier to demonstrate need than say a large scale development on the edge of a village (our example).

My clients' proposal does sit outside the SPA, but in reality it falls within the general built form of the village. It forms a very logical infill plot on which a property can be developed in such a manner that would respect the linear character of the village, without having a detrimental impact on the visual character of the village or impacting on the neighbouring properties. Furthermore the nature of the site ensures that there would be no unacceptable physical incursion into the open countryside as the boundaries of the site are strongly defined. A single dwelling therefore that lies within the historic building line, accords with the advice contained within PPS7 and the objectives of Policy CP14.

Under Section 2 of the Councils advice note, sub section A it states:

"In order to meet the PPS7 requirement for vital settlements it is implicit that within SPAs some incremental growth may be acceptable to maintain vitality. This means that appropriate development proposed within SPAs consistent with saved policies H24 and E17 should proceed".

We would argue that there are very good reasons for extending the SPA boundary to include my clients land (see enclosed plan for the extent of change being sought) and in changing the designation, this would allow for the development of a single dwelling in a manner that would complement the organic or incremental growth of the village, thus maintaining and ensuring the future vitality of the village. Furthermore it should be noted that my clients, who have lived in the village for some 40 years wish to live in the proposed property, thus remaining in the village. Therefore this is not a typical market led development proposal, it is for existing residents who wish to continue living in the village during their retirement. The effect of this if allowed to go forward, would be to release my clients' current home for sale. We are not naïve to think that their current home will automatically be purchased by another family in the village, however, it does create the opportunity for a family who have outgrown their existing home and are looking to stay in the village but unable too, as larger houses rarely come on to the market. Thus this could potentially free up cheaper, more affordable properties further down the chain.

It is also worth mentioning that the proposal for a zero carbon home would also accord to a degree, with paragraph 11 of PPS7 which states:

"Very occasionally the exceptional quality and innovative nature of the design of a proposed, isolated new house may provide this special justification for granting planning permission. Such a design should be truly outstanding and ground-breaking, for example, in use of materials, methods of construction or its contribution to protecting and enhancing the environment, so helping to raise standards of design more generally in rural areas. The value of such a building will be found in its reflection of the highest standards in contemporary architecture, … and its sensitivity to the defining characteristics of the local area."

It is recognised that this paragraph is primarily directed towards proposals for houses that are proposed in isolated settings far from any built up areas. Obviously in the case of the current objection site, it lies within the built fabric of a village. However, the general thrust of the guidance is that if the design is innovative, in terms design or is ground breaking in terms of its use of materials, construction methods and so on, this can provide special justification for granting planning permission. The proposed dwelling is for a zero carbon home, which is of high quality design and would use the latest technologies to ensure that it achieves its zero carbon footprint. This should be recognised in the context of paragraph 11 of PPS7 and coupled with the other reasons we feel a single dwelling on this land would be acceptable.

In addition to the advice in PPS7, the guidance contained in PPS3 Housing should also be taken into account. Overall PPS3 seeks to deliver housing development that is located in sustainable locations primarily in urban areas. However it does recognise that development is required in rural areas too. Paragraph 37 sets out a list of criteria for selecting suitable broad locations for new housing on the regional scale, one of factors is:

"The need to create and maintain sustainable, mixed and inclusive communities in all areas, both urban and rural."

On a local level, the 7th bullet point of paragraph 38 also refers to:

"The need to provide housing in rural areas, not only in market towns and local service centres but also in villages in order to enhance or maintain their sustainability. …"


In summary, this is a fantastic opportunity to promote a CSH Level 6 home in north Bedfordshire, which will also contribute to the incremental growth of the village. When considering this proposal, both this letter and the previous submission made by PPS, should be read together in support of my clients proposal.

To clarify, my clients are seeking:

  • Removal of the Important Open Space designation;
  • Extension of the SPA boundary to include some of their land (see attached plan for details); and
  • Allocation of the plot of land for a single low impact, eco home.

The site sits 1.6m above Riseley High St, in an elevated position, behind an established hedge and tree line. It is therefore barely visible from the road in winter and not at all in summer. The land is in private ownership and performs no useful purpose in open space terms, both in physical or visual terms. The proposal for a single dwelling that sits within the historic building line of the village, would respect the linear nature of the village and have limited impact. Development of the single dwelling would accord with the aims and objectives of national and local planning policy by maintaining the vitality of the village through appropriate incremental development. As an added benefit it would prevent the site coming forward for a much larger market led scheme, which is likely to be more traditional in appearance and would have far more impact on the village.

My client would welcome the opportunity to come and meet with you to discuss their proposal and how it accords with policy. If you feel a meeting would be beneficial please call me. In the meantime, should you have any questions in relation to this submission, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Yours faithfully


  1. Does it have to be ugly?

    Surely you could make it attractive.

  2. Hello
    Thanks for your comment. What do you think it needs to look like to be attractive? George

  3. That is one good case put forward. Did you get planning?

  4. Thank you for your comment - no not yet.