Category Archives: Housing

The Biddenham Society – 2017 AGM and Lunch

More than 70 residents, including our two borough councillors, attended the 53rd Annual Lunch and AGM of the Biddenham Society in the Village Hall on Sunday 5th November.  Following the chairman’s welcome, the society’s secretary Mark Phillips presented and summarised the minutes of the 2016 AGM.  In ‘Matters Arising’, the chairman reported on the current sale of 11 Church End, and the request of the planning authority to help monitor that the conditions attached to the use of the annexe are followed in the future by the new owners.

The Treasurer Garry Fitzhugh reported a satisfactory set of accounts with the customary modest surplus. A questioner was referred to a note on the balance sheet indicating that the majority of the residual funds held were contributed by local organisations specifically for the future maintenance of the Biddenham Heritage Trail. The accounts were approved by the meeting.

In his report the chairman Tony Wood reported there had been 32 village planning applications during the previous 12 months, most of which were uncontentious. He briefly reviewed the four to which the society had objected.

The chairman then moved to the development of the borough’s Local Plan 2021-2035.  He reminded the meeting that 10 village sites had been submitted last year for reclassification for building purposes, all of which had been opposed by the society. Most of these had recently been eliminated by the local authority, the main exception being an area bounded by Gold Lane to the east, Bromham Road to the north, and Duck End Lane to the south on which it was suggested 160 dwellings might be constructed.  Whilst the society’s position remained opposed to any further development in Biddenham, the pressure on the local authority to meet its housing targets within the urban area was recognised, and the proposal appeared to be the least worst option.

A meeting was held earlier in the week between local interested parties and the proposed developer to discuss this parcel of land, but to the astonishment of the residents and local councillors the developer instead presented a plan for 300 houses covering an area nearly four times that suggested by the local authority as being appropriate. This was seen by those present as a blatant attempt to drive through a mass housing scheme for the pecuniary gain of the developer and the landowners which was contrary to the interests of the village, and was vigorously opposed.

The chairman drew attention to copies of the plan posted in the hall (reproduced on the Biddenham Blog), and invited Peter Chase to speak on behalf of the Parish Council. He confirmed the council’s complete opposition to the proposals, and outlined very clearly why these were at variance to decisions previously taken by the planners to preserve the physical separation of Biddenham and Bromham.  There were also many other reasons why such a large development was undesirable including access, traffic considerations, school provision, and the ecological effects on the village pond.  With the support of the group that had met the developer he had since written a lengthy letter to the Mayor and borough Chief Executive which listed in detail the numerous local objections to the proposal.

As part of the subsequent debate and questions, Cllr Roger Rigby clarified the likely rationale of the borough in putting forward its original proposal for 160 properties on this site, and confirmed the wisdom of submitting a strong letter from the Parish Council objecting to the developer’s enhanced plans. It was stated that the developer had announced the intention to hold a public consultation in the Church Barn on 21st November.

The final main agenda item was a short presentation from Chris Hayden-Jones on our local footpaths and Cowslip Meadow to which many improvements had already been made with more planned. The chairman thanked Chris for his hard work and leadership on this excellent community project.

In considering membership of the committee for 2017-2018, Bob Hutchinson had indicated he would be stepping down after ten years (nine as treasurer) on the committee, and the meeting warmly showed its appreciation. The remainder of the existing committee (Will Jenkin, Mark Phillips, Garry Fitzhugh, Monica Knight, Susie Mason-Patel, Jeremy Reynolds, Chris Hayden-Jones and Tony Wood), were re-elected unanimously.

The chairman closed the meeting with thanks to all the helpers preparing and serving the lunch, especially to the chief organisers Will Jenkin and Jeremy Reynolds.  The next AGM will be on Sunday 4th November 2018.

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.

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DEVELOPER PLANS 300 HOUSES TO GRAB MOST OF THE FARMLAND WEST OF GOLD LANE

DEVELOPER PLANS 300 HOUSES TO GRAB MOST OF THE FARMLAND WEST OF GOLD LANE

On 31st October 2017 a meeting was held between interested parties and the proposed developers of a modest area of farmland west of Gold Lane bounded by Gold Lane to the east, Bromham Road to the north and Duck End Lane to the south, on which the local authority had suggested 160 dwellings would be appropriate.  Those attending included local councillors, the Parish Council and Friends of Biddenham Pond as well as the Biddenham Society. The developers Curtin and Co. were accompanied by a representative from Lioncourt Strategic Land.

The Biddenham representatives were astonished instead to be confronted with a plan for 300 houses covering an area nearly four times that provisionally suggested by the local authority as appropriate.  Houses would completely surround Duck End Lane as far south as the village pond, and extend west to the footpath between the church and the Bromham bypass.  Whilst the developers insisted the plans presented were only ‘Work in progress’ it was very clear that any adverse views expressed would make no difference to the overall size of the scheme proposed.

The developer’s tactics were seen by all present as a flagrant attempt to grab most of our remaining open space for the pecuniary gain of themselves and the landowners, and without any regard for the effects on the village and its residents.  Our unanimous opposition was made clear, and in a subsequent private discussion the next course of action to be taken to prevent the proposed development was decided.

Bedford Local Plan 2035

Bedford Borough Council is preparing a local plan that will set out how much growth there should be in the borough in coming years (housing, jobs and associated infrastructure) and where it should take place. Current planning policy documents look up to 2021 and the new local plan will extend that period up to 2035. It will also include policies that will be used to make decisions on planning applications.

The Council has asked for comments on the consultation paper it has issued about the new plan, together with a number of supporting evidence documents. The consultation period ends on 9 June 2017.

In the Borough Council’s consultation paper an area of land off Gold Lane, Biddenham, and within sites numbered 29 and 691 in the documentation is shown as a potential development area at this stage: that area of land is not immediately adjacent to the village pond. But in a supporting document, the current draft Strategic Housing and Employment Land Availability Assessment (SHELAA), the whole of the land in sites 29 and 691 is shown as being suitable, available and achievable for development.

Our village pond is not served by streams or springs and relies on precipitation and run off from adjacent fields for its water, and importantly the entire area surrounding the pond is currently wildlife friendly. Developing all the land in sites 29 and 691, particularly the field to the north of and by the side of the village pond, between the pond and Duck End Lane, would have a significant and substantial practical and aesthetic impact on the pond.

It would threaten the pond’s very survival and the survival of the wide range of wildlife it supports, including rare and protected species, by adversely impacting both run off water to the pond and also the pond’s setting in the presently attractive open and wildlife friendly landscape around it, thereby reducing the scope for and ability of wildlife to migrate to and from the pond and thus the opportunity for sustainable healthy breeding through genetic diversity with other populations.

The Friends has submitted comments, in a letter to the Borough Council, concluding that given the need to protect and conserve our natural environment, not least species protected by the law, wildlife corridors, and sites of local importance, and to safeguard the future of the village pond, its wildlife and the open wildlife friendly landscape in which the pond sits, it is seeking:

  • at the very minimum, the removal from the threat of development of the field by the side of and to the north of the pond and its retention as open space, that is to its reassessment and recategorisation as land not suitable, available and achievable for development (as was categorised land to the west of that field at Stage 2 of the availability assessment); and
  • more substantially, the removal from the threat of development of the whole of the land in sites 29 and 691, south of the A4280, and its retention as open space, and similarly therefore its reassessment and recategorisation as land not suitable, available and achievable for development.

Please do support your village pond by writing to the Borough Council’s Planning Department with your comments. You can send your comments by email to planningforthefuture@bedford.gov.uk or by post to:

Local Plan 2035 consultation
Planning Policy Team
Bedford Borough Council
Borough Hall
Bedford
MK42 9AP

Thank you.

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.

Kings Field – land north of Bromham Road

The roads are now being constructed within the development site for housing at the western – Biddenham – end of Kings Field:

Work is also underway creating the playing fields on the other side – Bromham side – of the bypass, but we didn’t manage to get across the road to take any photos of that as the rain started to come down.

However, later, my colleague also passed that way and did manage, amongst others, a photo looking into the area being developed for playing fields:

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Land north of Bromham Road

You may have noticed on the developers’ sign boards erected on Bromham Road, and more recently on the new section of bypass, that the development has an overall name of Kings Field.

This has been chosen to remember an event that took place on Thursday, 22 October 1914 when King George V came to review the Highland Troops then stationed in Bedford and around, including Biddenham.

The review took place in Bromham Road, the Bedfordshire Times and Independent of 23 October reported ‘in the  large field beyond the Midland Railway, and lying between the Golf Course and the Bromham-road, opposite the first Biddenham turn’, that is, where houses are currently being constructed as the new development takes shape.

‘As a matter of fact’ the report continued, ‘the troops occupied both this field and the Golf Course beyond, but the march past took place in the first field’. ‘The Gordon Brigade, probably owing to the proximity of their billets to the review ground, were the first on the scene. They marched up in the neighbourhood by 9 o’clock, and took up their positions on the Golf Links. The Scottish Horse, from the country, were also fairly early arrivals. The Seaforth and Cameron Brigades started to arrive about 10 a.m., and also went to the Golf Links, and the following troops arrived in the following order:- R.G.A., R.F.A. (Golf Links), Argyll Brigade, A.S.C., R.E., and R.A.M.C. Some of the units arrived with bands playing, and in some the men were singing and whistling, but generally speaking there was an air of seriousness’.

‘During the arrival of the troops the reserve regiment of the Beds. Yeomanry marched up to their training ground – a field off the Biddenham-road, and their smart appearance, despite the absence of uniform in many cases, was favourably commented upon. When the King left they were formed up down the Biddenham-road, but owing to the crowd they had no opportunity of seeing His Majesty’.

On arrival after 11.30 am ‘the royal car passed straight up the road to the second field where His Majesty was received by the general officers, and forthwith he inspected the Scottish Horse, the Artillery Regiments, the Gordons, the Camerons, the Seaforths, and other troops parading in that part of the ground’.

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‘At 11.50 a.m. His Majesty and his retinue entered the first large field at the corner diagonally remote from the gate opposite the Biddenham-lane and began his inspection of the troops on that side, walking along the front ranks from west to east’. The King then moved across the field towards the gate and the march past began, each section headed by a band of pipers. Rain began to fall and fell more heavily as the King eventually left to reach the railway station by 1.30 pm.

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There is much more in the newspaper report of the event which is now marked by the name given to the development taking place almost 102 years later.

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Land north of Bromham Road

The recent clearance of trees and hedges along the north of Bromham Road, between Biddenham Turn and Beverley Grove, has prompted questions about what is happening on the land north of Bromham Road.

This work is to facilitate in due course the creation of a new road junction into the eventual development from Bromham Road (going north into the development). The new junction will be to the east of the Biddenham Turn junction (which goes south into Biddenham). There will be associated changes to the footpath layout, and new planting along the revised boundary.

Changes have also been proposed to the design guidelines for the development of the land north of Bromham Road, following discussions with council departments concerned and to bring the guidelines up to date with current policy both at national and local level. There have been changes in location for the community centre and for the public playing pitches, which are now proposed to be located at the west (Biddenham) end of the site, and for the primary school for which a planning application has now been submitted (as reported in the 25 January 2015 edition of Bedfordshire on Sunday, page 28). There may be further revisions to the position and impact/style of the community centre buildings given their rural setting near to what would be more traditional style housing and a listed building.

There is a consultation period for the revision of the design guidelines which started on 6 January and runs to 8 February 2015. The relevant documents are available on the Bedford Borough Council website.

 

Biddenham Future

A new page Biddenham future has been added to the blog’s main menu.

It will provide a record of Biddenham as it is before developments take place that will change the village in the future. Initially, it is covering the two major planning issues currently of particular interest to the village:

  • the proposed development of land north of Bromham Road; and
  • the submissions for development in Biddenham put forward for inclusion in the local plan for the Borough of Bedford in the period up to 2032.