All residents should by now have received a letter from Central Bedfordshire Council (CBC) informing them of Fairfield Parish Council’s application for an ‘Article 4 Direction’ to remove permitted development rights in the parish, and a leaflet from Fairfield Parish Council (FPC) explaining its position. Here’s a summary of the main points.

What is permitted development?

‘Permitted development’ (PD) is a loosening of planning law first introduced in 1995 and updated several times since, which allows homeowners to undertake certain types of work without needing to apply for planning permission. These include rear and side extensions, front porches and loft extensions. 

Why is that a bad thing?

Current PD legislation specifies the maximum size of extension that is allowed, but does not have much to say about style. For that reason, Article 4 Directions are fairly standard in conservation areas and other places where the local heritage – the ‘look’ of a place – is important. Fairfield was created around the old Victorian hospital, and took its inspiration from that iconic building. This makes the village unique in many ways; its design and feel is very different to that of other modern housing developments. Unregulated building work is a threat to that. Of course, most people will want to keep Fairfield looking as it does and will make sure their extensions are sympathetic – but currently they don’t have to, and this could over time chip away at Fairfield’s distinctiveness. 

Would this stop me extending my house?  

No. Many of us want to make changes to our properties. FPC is in favour of that, as long as the changes are in keeping. It’s not just FPC: in a survey of Fairfield residents in 2014, 95 per cent of respondents agreed that any further development should keep the current look and feel of Fairfield. With that in mind, a design statement was drawn up to crystallise what the key characteristics of our buildings are – you can see this at https://www.fairfieldparishcouncil.gov.uk/design-statement-2/. However, if the Article 4 Direction is agreed, residents will need to make a planning application for every extension or addition to their property. The downsides are a small charge (around £200) and the time taken to go through the planning process (around 8 weeks). Planning applications will be considered against various criteria including, most importantly, the Fairfield Neighbourhood Plan and Design Statement. 

Does this consultation relate to all of Fairfield?  

The dwellings which make up the converted former hospital are listed buildings, which have different restrictions. CBC has also excluded Fairfield Gardens and the unbuilt area around Fairfield Park Lower School’s Ruskin Drive campus from its consultation. FPC asks residents responding to the consultation to point out that the same rules should apply to these areas, if they agree that they should.

So what happens now?

To comment, visit the CBC consultation page by 26 October. This page contains information and links, with a ‘Have Your Say’ button at the bottom.