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Monday, 2 August 2021

Police and Crime Commissioner hopeful sale of former Bedford town centre police station site will progress, as development viability talks reach sensitive stage

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Bedfordshire’s outgoing police and crime commissioner hopes the sale of the former Greyfriars Police Station in Bedford will fall into place soon.

Kathryn Holloway promised to direct “a laser like focus” on the borough council last month, as a housing and retail project for the site appeared to be stalling.

The process to finalise the outline consent for the defunct police station building will continue, according to a report to Bedfordshire Police and Crime Panel.

The sale will be considered against the prevailing economic position,” said the report.

The council decided that the application would be determined by delegated powers in December.

We’ve appointed a consultant to prepare the viability study regarding the highways work, affordable housing requirement and the development contributions.

A solicitor will start work on the Section 106 legal agreement once the results of those discussions are known.

The viability assessment is due to be submitted this month highlighting our concerns over the proposed contributions the council expects this site to provide.

The council has to appoint an independent consultant to review this and finalise terms,” explained the report.

When we know what the Section 106 liability is for the site, we’ll be in a position to market it.”

Planning permission was granted by the local authority for a change of use for the site between Greyfriars and Priory Street.

The PCC told a panel meeting she gave “a very robust response around Greyfriars” last time, saying: “My understanding is talks have reached a particularly sensitive stage.

So it would be wise not to return in detail to the subject at this point, other than to say I’m confident of its resolution now.”

Conservative Kempston Rural councillor Jim Weir said: “Having been at the planning meeting, I know how fraught and difficult you felt the system is.

Were the concerns over the proposed contributions technical issues from the council or something more substantive?

The PCC replied: “As we’ve moved forward agreeing something so another set of expectations has been put before us, most recently around the highways and the development of the site in the immediate area.

I wouldn’t like to go into detail, given the sensitivities. I expressed my frustrations. I understand yours too.

What’s been particularly disappointing is the entire planning committee, cross party, voted unanimously to support the change of use application.

Therefore, everyone on the planning committee understands very clearly Bedfordshire Police needs to sell Greyfriars.

We’ve produced exactly the plans the council officers asked us for, which is a mixture of housing, including some with access for individuals with disabilities, and they wanted, in their words, “a lively street scene“.

How lively a street scene it might be after COVID is a question and whether it should be all housing now, but that’s not my call.

We’ve done every single thing they’ve asked us and still, as yet, we don’t have the planning permission formally issued.

Anything you can do would be massively appreciated. The committee want us to move ahead.

We’ve done everything the council and the planning department asked us to, so there’s really little more we can do to advance this.”

Euan Duncan, Local Democracy Reporter
The Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) is a public service news agency: funded by the BBC, provided by the local news sector, and used by qualifying partners. It’s like a franchise: different companies with different approaches, but using common editorial standards and all publishing into the same system.

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