Category Archives: Biddenham Society

Heritage plaque commemorates Biddenham’s historic coffin path

The Biddenham Society has commissioned and installed the village’s first historic green plaque to commemorate and identify the C16th Coffin Path which runs from Gold Lane to St James’ Church, forming an important part of the Biddenham Heritage Trail which was opened in 2015.


The Village of Biddenham through the ages
, by Katherine Fricker, Mary Mckeown and Diana Toyne,
describes The Coffin Path, or Causeway, as historically being a vital amenity for the village as it was the shortest way for relatives of the working class to carry the coffin of the deceased to the churchyard for burial.  The path and gates were kept at a width of six feet to allow a coffin with a man on either side to pass through comfortably. In the C18th the Botelers left £2 per annum with the vicar to ensure regular maintenance was carried out to keep the path to the requisite width.

Unfortunately, in 2016 successive ploughing by the land owner destroyed a large part of it, since when the route has relied on villagers and other walkers marking it out with their feet. Meanwhile, with the support of the society and other local groups, the parish council continues to engage in dialogue with the land owner to seek reassurances that this important part of our heritage will be properly preserved in the future – and at six feet wide, not just the width of a tractor wheel!

The plaque is mounted on the north wall of Dawn Cottage at the Gold Lane end of the path, and we thank Peggy Groves for agreeing to have it on her property.  The Biddenham Society is also grateful to the History Society and the Biddenham Show Committee for their sponsorship of this project.

The Biddenham Society – response to 2035 Local Plan Consultation

The Biddenham Society

        (founded 1965)

Local Plan 2035 Consultation Planning Policy Team
Borough Hall
Bedford MK42 9AP
30 May 2017

 RESPONSE TO BEDFORD BOROUGH COUNCIL’S 2035 LOCAL PLAN CONSULTATION

 Introduction
The Biddenham Society compliments the authors of the Local Plan 2035 on addressing in a thorough and even-handed way the wide range of complex issues involved in determining the possible locations of the additional 8,103 houses it is suggested are required in the borough. We are pleased that the proposals do not bring forward several of the Biddenham sites submitted by developers, and we look forward to continuing our constructive involvement in ensuring these remain free of development in the future.

The society is, however, disappointed that sites 691 & 29 (Gold Lane) and 25 (Land to the rear of 94-122 Bromham Road) have been suggested as suitable for development, and we give below a number of reasons why we hope the borough will reconsider these two recommendations and remove them from the proposals.

Open Spaces
In the late 1980s the open spaces within the current Biddenham settlement area represented approximately 30% of the village land area.  In 2017, less than 30 years later, the comparable figure is just over 4%. This rapid erosion has been the result of creating the Deep Spinney Estate to the south of Bromham Road, coupled with granting change of use to housing for many of the village’s paddocks.  Sites 691 & 29 together with the remaining fields west of Gold Lane provide essential counterbalancing open space along the western boundary which helps to offset some of this loss.

Biddenham’s heritage
From 1086 to the twentieth century Biddenham was largely a farming and rural community, with six farms still existing in the early 1900s. By the end of the 20th Century, all the farmhouses and outbuildings had either been demolished or converted to modern residential accommodation, mostly in sympathy with their original purpose, so they continue to contribute positively to the overall character of the village.  The farmland between Gold Lane and the western by-pass is now the only working link to Biddenham’s heritage, and the loss of any portion of this to housing would be detrimental to the character and history of this beautiful village.

Other factors
The proposed development of sites 691 & 29 will remove part of the natural break between Biddenham and the Bromham by-pass.  Site 25 lies in the flood plain of the river and if developed will reduce the gap between the Biddenham and Bromham settlements.  Safe vehicular access to and from both sites could well prove problematic, especially for site 25 where, on the basis of two cars per household, over 50 vehicles could regularly use the narrow semi-blind access to Bromham Road, the splay of which cannot easily be increased owing to the private ownership of the adjacent land.

The society is concerned about the consequences for local schools of increasing the population of Biddenham by a further 187 dwellings, especially for the proposed St James’ CE Primary School. There could also be repercussions for the village’s historic 300-year-old pond from properties constructed on the Gold Lane site. The pond relies on run-off from the surrounding fields to maintain the water levels necessary to support wildlife, and if these proposals are implemented its survival could be threatened.

Over-development
During the last 30 years the area inside the Biddenham Loop has contributed more than its fair share towards successive borough building targets, resulting in the loss of vast tracts of agricultural land and open amenity spaces. The Deep Spinney Estate and the on-going Great Denham development will together have added in excess of 2000 dwellings when the latter is completed, with the construction of a further 1300 or so properties recently started north of Bromham Road.

This is a housing contribution of substantial significance which has had a considerable effect on the character and nature of what was originally a rural village.  In this context, it would seem a small but important gesture of recognition for the borough to relocate the 187 dwellings proposed for Biddenham in this consultation, and thereby help preserve its beauty and character for future generations to enjoy.

In the spirit of giving constructive feedback, the society has suggested (see Appendix) some amendments to the published document.  These include alternative proposed sites for the 187 dwellings currently allocated to Biddenham.  We would also urge the borough to re-examine the basis of its calculation that a total of 19,000 new homes will be required in the borough by 2035, an assumption which leads to the suggested 8,103 shortfall quoted in this consultation.  To the society this appears a considerable over-estimate of need when taking into account the many factors involved. Reducing this total to a more realistic figure would relieve some of the pressure on areas like Biddenham which have already made a major contribution towards housing growth.

Green space
The Society is concerned that only a single site from the several submitted for Biddenham has been accepted for designation as a Green Space.  We would respectfully question whether the deciding criteria have been correctly applied in all cases, and would urge the council to offer the facility for any applicant village to submit further evidence in support of a particular site if it is felt an injustice has occurred. This issue is particularly important for Biddenham in view of the very few open spaces remaining in the village. We can confirm that to varying degrees all spaces submitted support:

  1. the continuation of Biddenham as a semi-rural village as demonstrated by trees, open grass areas, wildlife and its local community spirit;
  2. the provision of space for the community’s residents and families for play, leisure and relaxation;
  3. a natural break in the ever-increasing presence of housing; and
  4. protection against continued over-development.

Summary
The Biddenham Society is generally supportive of the content of the consultative document, and of the methodologies adopted in reaching its recommendations.

However, we believe the time is now right for the borough to recognise the significant contribution made by the parish of Biddenham over the last 30 years towards the borough’s successive housing targets, and the detrimental effects this has had on the open and amenity spaces of what was formerly a rural village.

These effects have been compounded by the on-going construction of thousands of new dwellings to the south and north of the village.  Despite this, Biddenham has managed to retain many valued aspects of its heritage – celebrated in 2015 by the creation of a heritage trail funded by the national lottery –  which are enjoyed and appreciated by residents and visitors alike.  The village is truly a jewel in the crown of the Borough of Bedford, and we wish it to remain so.

The number of new dwellings proposed for Biddenham in the consultative document will make only a small contribution towards the borough’s residual new-build targets but –  in the case of areas 691 & 29 in particular – will result in large negative consequences for the village following the reclassification of specific fields from agricultural to residential use.

We therefore ask for the stated Biddenham sites to be declassified from the plan as potential development areas.

Dr Tony Wood

Chairman
34 Church End
Biddenham
Bedford
MK40 4AR

 APPENDIX

Site amendments

Having examined the sustainability and other listed factors for the various sites listed in the document, the Society suggests the borough may wish to consider the following site amendments.

  1. To extend the number of houses in the new developments at Lee Farm Sharnbrook (site 622), Thurleigh Airfield (site 630), Land at Twinwoods (site 608 listed under Milton Ernest) and Wyboston Garden Village (site 659) to make up for the 187 houses removed from the Biddenham sites.
  2. To include the areas of either 133 or 134. The exclusion of these areas was to enable sport facilities that “are supposed to be provided” with concerns about access. The Biddenham Society recommends that the allocation of one of these sites, adjacent to an area already developed in Great Denham, would leave the other to be developed for sport. Access is available from the roundabout on the A428 towards the bottom of Figure 1 below.

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 1 – Access to sites 133 and 134

 

 

3.  To extend the proposed developments at other sites which are already included for large scale development at Bromham, Salph End, Sharnbrook, Clapham (Opt.2) and Roxton.

Biddenham Society opposes Church End application

Application 16/03531/FUL seeks approval for a radical re-shaping of the 1930’s detached house at 33 Church End to include one and two storey front, side and rear extensions.

The Biddenham Society has lodged an objection to this proposal on the following grounds:

  1. the volume, massing and detail of the proposed alterations have little regard for the special character and visual qualities of the Conservation Area;
  2. the relationship of the proposed alterations to adjacent buildings is not contextually appropriate, virtually infilling the site with the loss of through views and open space and resulting in considerable impact on the Conservation Area;
  3. the exclusively traditional subservient roof forms which characterise Church End have been ignored;
  4. the 3D image presented showing the crown roof loses the massing of the roof in the low perspective view point, which would not be the case at eye level travelling along Church End in either direction;
  5. the positive contribution made by the original building to the Conservation Area has been subsumed and cannot be identified; and
  6. no reference is made to the boundary treatment in the plans as an element which has been identified as contributing to the Conservation Area.

A decision on the application is awaited.

To access plans and comments on applications

  1. Go to http://www.bedford.gov.uk/searchplans
  2. Click on the link ‘To view and comment on Planning Applications’
  3. Type in the application reference number.
  4. Click Search
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Biddenham Society – Bedford Borough Local Plan 2035

Bedford Borough Local Plan 2035
The public consultation on the borough’s preferred development strategy for the Local Plan 2035 will take place from 18 April to 2 June subject to the Executive Committee agreeing the draft consultation papers at their meeting on 22 February.  These papers have just been published.  Access them through
www.bedford.gov.uk/localplan2035 and clicking the link.
The papers contain recommendations on authorising tracts of land for the construction of even more housing in Biddenham which, if implemented, will affect all residents of the village.
The society has a number of queries on the document which are being progressed on our behalf with the borough by our local councillor Jon Gambold.  When these have been resolved further information will be entered on this blog.

The Biddenham Society – Houses, houses, everywhere

You may have read in the pre-Christmas press of the government’s ambitious plans for the Oxford to Cambridge corridor in which Bedford sits squarely in the middle. An expressway is to be built to speed up road transport, and there is even talk of recreating a train route between the two university cities.  However, even if the funds can be found to complete the line from Oxford to Bedford the prospect of continuing the link to Cambridge must be a bit of a pipe dream. And anyway, if there is an expressway how many are likely to abandon the car or the X5 to pay through the nose to join a one carriage train stopping at loads of country halts?

Nevertheless, good news for Bedfordshire and Bedford.  Or is it?

We can of course wax lyrical about being at the hub of a world-leading technological corridor, and I expect it will be great for house prices – that is if you are selling not buying.  But it will surely worsen the lot of those young people in Bedford struggling to take their first steps on the housing ladder.  It may be hard enough now, but if we become a new Silicon Valley, future parents might anticipate many more grown up children camping out with mum and dad – for ever!

But have no fear: the government is on the job! Odds on you are unaware of the existence of a body called The National Infrastructure Commission, which recently consulted all the councils within the corridor, including of course Bedford Borough.  No doubt you are even less aware that the leaders of these councils, including the Mayor of Bedford, signed up to a paper which calls for an additional 1 million homes to be constructed in this corridor over the next 35 years, with the aim of supporting a further 1.6 million people.

To give you an idea of scale, a million new homes is equivalent to a city 50% larger than Birmingham, or ten giant towns the size of Northampton, or several hundred more Biddenhams.  Houses, houses, everywhere; but from where are the people coming to fill them all?

However you look at it, the Borough of Bedford will have to take its share, and it would therefore appear that those of us who live in Biddenham will be faced with a never-ending battle to prevent the village’s absorption as a suburb of an expanding Bedford conurbation. For the foreseeable future, we will have to keep at bay the vultures circling around our few remaining green spaces, in the hope that we can retain the open fields and pass the baton on to our successors to continue the fight, for you can be sure the threat will never go away.

At the moment, as recorded in the last issue of The Loop, we await the public consultation stage for the borough’s next local plan, which will first identify agricultural and other land recommended to be reclassified for building purposes.  The process has been delayed as a result of late bids to establish large scale housing areas (in effect new towns) elsewhere on the Bedford fringe.  These are being considered together with many other bids from developers in which Biddenham – once again – features large, notwithstanding the huge construction projects already committed for Great Denham and north of Bromham Road.  Nothing is sacrosanct to money-grabbing land owners.

Being rather uncharitable, we must hope the chosen areas for meeting the borough’s housing targets go elsewhere, and the remaining spaces on the edges of our village (such as the substantial land area west of Gold Lane) are left intact.  If not, stand by for a tough struggle to retain the distinctiveness and attraction of where we live.  But it is worth fighting for – isn’t it?

Adieu
tony-wood
This will be my 74th and last column for The Loop, nine years after the first in the January 2008 issue of what was then the Biddenham Bulletin.  During this fairly lengthy period I have tried to alert readers to the never-ending attempts by developers – small and large – to spoil our village, and in doing this I have rarely pulled my punches, applying the lash even-handedly to all, including any of my own erring friends or neighbours!  There will be some, I am sure, who will be relieved at the news.

Throughout I have been conscious that my policy of ‘naming and shaming’ miscreants does not sit comfortably in a church-sponsored publication, and I recognise this has frequently placed successive editors in difficult positions with the PCC. I would like to thank both Jean and her predecessor Rosemary for the tolerance they have shown over the years in doing all they could to accommodate my comments and observations, which many others may well have deemed unacceptable in the context of this particular publication.

The time is perhaps overdue for me to dispense a modest dollop of largesse and make our editor’s life a little easier by closing my Biddenham Loop folder.  My thanks to all those who have taken the time and trouble to contact me in person or by e-mail to respond to, or comment on, issues I have raised.  Most, not all, have been positive, but you can’t please all the people all the time (as many have said, probably including Donald Trump), and as part of my purpose has been to energise residents to talk about such matters I can feel satisfied some progress has been made.

My best wishes to readers, and to the continued success of the excellent Loop.

Tony Wood
Chairman

Founded in 1965 by a group of concerned residents, The Biddenham Society remains committed to the continued preservation of the beauty, history, character and heritage of the village.

The 51st AGM of the Biddenham Society

Seventy residents attended the AGM and lunch of the society on 1 November. Following a short tribute to the late Doug Kitchen (who served for 29 years on the committee, 21 as chairman), the minutes of the last AGM and the financial report were both presented and accepted by the meeting.

The chairman’s report reviewed the planning applications received for Biddenham during the previous twelve months, and presented the outcomes of several of particular interest to residents. The good progress of the northern extension to the western bypass was also raised, with its expected completion in the Spring 2016. The launch of the new Bedford Borough Plan aroused much interest and questions from the floor, as did the borough’s agreement to review the boundaries of the Biddenham Conservation Area for which the society has been lobbying for many years.

Jeremy Reynolds and Monica Knight then described a recent inspection visit of two significant Arts and Crafts period gardens in the village by consultants from ‘Historic England’. The meeting re-elected the committee for a further year with the exception of Chris Gleave who was stepping down for personal reasons. In thanking her for her past service, the chairman paid tribute to the outstanding contribution she had made to the preparation and organisation of the annual lunch over many years.

Thanks were also given to the committee and the other helpers involved, without whose assistance the event would be unable to take place in its present form.

Tony Wood
Chairman
tony.wood@redrobin.me.uk

Founded in 1965 by a group of concerned residents, The Biddenham Society remains committed to the continued preservation of the beauty, history, character and heritage of the village.

Heritage Trail Opening Ceremony

The sun shines on the opening of the heritage trail

A beautiful sunny, if slightly chilly, morning attracted a bumper attendance of over 150 people to the opening of the new Biddenham Heritage Trail on 18th April, created to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Biddenham Society.

The launch took place on the attractive grass area at Kings Corner, Main Road – a fitting site for the event incorporating as it does a bench seat (restored for the occasion) given by the society to the village in 1995 to commemorate its 30th anniversary.

The event began with musical entertainment provided by talented students from Biddenham Upper School, following which the chairman of the society introduced the former MP and current prospective parliamentary candidate for North-East Bedfordshire the Rt Hon Alistair Burt.

Mr Burt began by thanking Joe Mummery and Owen Openshaw from the school for their excellent musical contributions, and presented them with tokens of appreciation from the village. He also thanked the Heritage Lottery Fund, whose grants officer Suzie Spence was present, for providing the greater part of the funding needed to establish the trail.

He then commended the Biddenham Society for its initiative in developing the project as a way of highlighting the many beautiful aspects of the village to both residents and visitors, thereby encouraging people to respect and help preserve its fine history. He paid tribute to the work of the society over the last 50 years for its constant vigilance in protecting the unique character of Biddenham against undesirable development, and expressed pleasure at the presence of many young people who he hoped would one day continue its good work.

Mr Burt opened the trail by unveiling the first of six colourful information boards positioned around the village and in the river valley, each of which contains a map of the main anniversary trail and its various extensions, together with a varied selection of excellent reproductions of paintings of key features created by local artists.

Following the opening ceremony, copies of a family trail questionnaire consisting of 24 questions of varied difficulty were distributed with a return date of one week. Many families quickly set off to take up the challenge, and groups were soon to be found all over the village energetically searching for the answers. The winners of the various prizes donated by local organisations will be announced in the June issue of The Loop.

A supply of A5 leaflets containing a map of the various routes and the sites of the six information boards plus associated information will be maintained in the village hall entrance area for the convenience of residents and visitors. The map can also be found on the village blog. If you have not yet done so I hope you will take an early opportunity to walk some of the routes for yourself, all of which are colour coded and waymarked.

The completion of the overall project will follow the installation of the junior trail board in the grounds of St James’ School. The board has already been manufactured, and is a unique interpretation of the village’s heritage featuring drawings and writing done by the children. Its installation has been delayed following the departure of the previous head teacher, but I expect it to be carried out before the end of May. The total heritage trail project has been completed within budget, with every penny of the lottery grant spent!

See the quality – feel the width!

Great efforts have been made by contributors and designers to produce visual displays which are not only distinctive compared to similar ventures elsewhere, but are also of high quality. The Biddenham Society wants to ensure this standard is maintained in the future, and that any resulting vandalism or deterioration in information boards or waymarkers is swiftly and effectively corrected.

Accordingly, the society is establishing a ‘Heritage Trail Maintenance Fund’ to enable corrective measures to be taken when they are needed. As an initial target we aim to raise £1,000 for this purpose, and thanks to the early generosity of the Biddenham Show Committee plus two local residents we are off to a flying start with £400 already in the bank.

If you as an individual, or as part of one of our many thriving village groups, would like to consider making a contribution to this fund, you would be helping to sustain a very concrete expression of the pride in our village we all wish to encourage amongst both residents and visitors.

Donations, however small, would be welcomed, and preferably sent to our Honorary Treasurer Bob Hutchinson at ‘Buttercups’, 19 Main Road. Cheques should be made out to ’The Biddenham Society’.

With best wishes and thanks

Tony Wood
Chairman
tony.wood@redrobin.me.uk

Founded in 1965 by a group of concerned residents, The Biddenham Society remains committed to the continued preservation of the beauty, history, character and heritage of the village.