Category Archives: Open spaces

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.

Cowslip Meadow project, April 2017

Latest updates:

April 2017
There is a meeting in the meadow for all interested at 10am on Friday May 12th.

We will be discussing with The Borough how we can manage the meadow as a community group.
Cutting paths, interpretation, improving the entrance and managing the field as a hay meadow are amoung the items for what we hope will be a fairly light regime
A management plan has been written
We hope the local schools might be able to take an interest
We have already cleared much of the ragwort but there is more to do

Chris Jones

March 2017
The borough are happy to meet up to discuss the start of a Cowslip meadow project and to consider our plans

I think we should meet in the barn some time
Maybe a day and evening session and get it into the Mag and The blog so that we make an impact
We already have the new mower
The Borough will help us with much good advice
I will try to find a suitable date probably in the week of Monday May 12th @ 10 – 11 am

click for details:  Cowslip Meadow Management Plan 2017 v1

December 2016

the Cowslip Meadow is cut …

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18th October:
The grass in the cowslip meadow should be cut next week by Ray the farmer

This will include the churchyard extension grass
The PC have the money for the mower so i will go and order it this week
Then there will be training for the mower and strimmer to cover the PC insurance
The next thing is to tidy up the churchyard shed for putting the mower in–will let you know
Once Ray has cut the grass he should be along to bale it and we can discuss where they go with him!
Then I hope we can proceed with some ideas at a meeting.
We are on the Biddenham blog and the new web site when it goes live.
Best wishes, Chris

21st September:

Hello all – Sorry to have been quiet again

I think The Borough are about to get the meadow grass cut having been through their tendering process. I will phone/email them about it tomorrow
The PC hopefully are proceeding with buying the mower to use in the meadow.
When we have the mower I will call for vols and arrange training with The Borough
I have the list of plants in the meadow from David G.
We need then to look at ideas for a display panel in the entrance and an improved look to the gateway
Ron has put us on The Biddenham blog and we should be on the revised Biddenham Website via Joe Warren
The pond team are unlikely to want to extend their work into the meadow but i will ask informally at the next pond Committee meeting
Chris

7th September:

Hello all
The Parish Council are right behind our ideas for managing the cowslip meadow, I am pleased to say after the meeting tonight

Next step is to proceed to purchase the mower so we can be trained to use it and the strimmer by the Borough
I will also try to get the grass cutting by the contractor moved on apace
I will try to put a note together for the show on Sunday to give out
You will find me mostly on the pond stand.
Thank you for your support
Please pass this on and i will need to start compiling a supporters list
Chris

20th August:

A meeting was held with Bedford Borough staff in the field when a group of us met to plan the way ahead

The Borough who own the field are quite prepared for a community group to manage the field with wildlife objectives in mind but need clear plans from us

To that end a group of us have successfully removed much of the ragwort growth. If there is ragwort in a field there is no chance ever of moving the grass as a hay crop and thus helping to maintain biodiversity

The next stage is to meet with the borough volunteer officer to discuss how we could apply to set up a friends group.

To do that you will need to register your support so there should shortly be a page on the Biddenham village web site for you to do that with an email address

Look out for the date and time of a meeting in September when you can come along to ask questions or register your interest. Details will be posted on the Biddenham Blog the web site and in the notice boards

There are various models for Friends conservation groups which we can discuss at the meeting

The field is quite safe from housing development but without management input would probably revert to scrub then dense woodland in a few years thus reducing rather than enhancing biodiversity

Chris Jones

10th August 2016

Thanks to those who came to the field meeting.
We decided to try to remove ragwort from the Cowslip meadow and will assemble to make a start on this  Saturday the 13th at 2pm see how far we get. We have the backing of the Borough in this if we clear some parts at least in the future we can have a look at a cutting regime for parts of the site.

To keep paths clear it might be an idea to take up the offer of a Mower from John and Roger. This can be kept in the church shed I hope by agreement with the PCC and used elsewhere as can the strimmer training on each to be organized

We will set up another meeting with the Borough volunteers coordinator to discuss further where we go next. Meeting probably  in early Sept

We hope the grass will get cut again and baled but it is unlikely to be removed. The Borough will clear the entrance and put a barrier back

See some of you on Saturday
Please pass on, Chris

28th July 2016

 ragwort
Ragwort


Next Friday (5th August) I have a meeting with the Borough in the meadow at 10am please come if you can.
Thanks to those who came to help remove ragwort from the churchyard extension.  I am trying to arrange a conservation cut. To cut the cowslip meadow will entail removal of the barriers at the entrance as well as another ragwort session.
Please pass this on, Chris

19th July 2016

I have been trying to establish whose responsibility the field is at the Borough.  Until then we cannot go ragwort pulling or make any other plans. I have been on the phone again to Simon Fisher who seems to be in charge. The lack of communication is blamed on the river festival. I also want to get arrangements on the go to cut the grass in the meadow at some point. if we can remove the ragwort we might be more likely to get the grass/hay moved off

I have two quotes for a grass mower which i will pass on when we can arrange a meeting with the Borough
In the meantime we should practice by pulling the ragwort that has got into the churchyard extension. I am away until Monday and busy most of next week but suggest any volunteers meet at the new churchyard on Wed July 27th at 10am – it shouldn’t take long there isn’t much.
Thanks to all for your interest

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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Cowslip Meadow – planning for the future

Some information was given about the meadow at the environment day in the churchyard as the site is next door. image2I would like to explore further ideas I have for managing the meadow for the community – it is owned by the Borough and they have indicated their willingness to be approached by a community “friends” group. We would need a constitution and set up a body to receive grant aid but would be able to get help and advice on this.
–  The meadow is a site for wild flowers, has a wet area, some shrubs and small trees.
–  We would need to get the grass cut once a year as we do now with Borough cooperation and may need to source funds to buy a conservation mower to help with the management. The Parish Council has a strimmer already.
–  The meadow could do with a ‘ragwort pull’ so that grass cut as hay can be used to feed livestock.

I would like to host a meeting on site on Saturday afternoon July 2nd meet by the church at 2pm. Please come along to help ensure the survival of this important local nature reserve.

Chris Jones

Restoration … or is it?

Biddenhamites jealously guard their heritage. So we were very excited when we heard, within hours of posting ‘Destruction and desecration’, that work had already been undertaken to restore the Coffin Path.

We rushed down to see. Hmmm. We couldn’t really spot the difference.

We do hope that there is more to be done yet to restore the paths, because can what has been done so far conceivably be acceptable as complying with the obligations of the Rights of Way Act 1990?

You may spot a hazy, vague impression of the paths in some distance shots but as you progress through the field, still trying to avoid spraining an ankle or two, of paths there appears to be nothing.

Apparently, barley has been sown in the field, and the good news is if the barley grows over where the paths should be we are entitled to cut it back. We’d better warn the DIY stores there could be a run on scythes later in the year?

Let’s hope the Borough Council will tell us there is still more restoration work to be done to bring the Coffin Path and footpath 10 back into obvious being and at appropriate widths. We don’t want another ‘dovecote moment’.

This whole saga does bring out the importance of communication. Had villagers known in advance that work was due to be done affecting a right of way, particularly in such a sensitive area and on a path so significant to the village’s heritage, there could perhaps have been proper discussion and agreed action before the event. We have heard there was some discussion between the Borough Council and the Estate last December. If that is the case was any effort made to communicate with Biddenham?

So in the meantime keep on trampling and look out those recipes that make good use of barley.

Destruction and desecration

Villagers were up in arms this week about the landowner’s “scorched earth” attack on the field to the west of the village pond which wiped out a substantial stretch of the ancient Coffin Path.

Parish and local councillors were inundated with calls for action from concerned villagers outraged at the destruction and desecration of the village’s heritage. In the meantime, at the risk of sprained ankles, villagers continued to walk the line the path had for centuries followed.

Whilst there is a statutory right for the occupier of land to plough or otherwise disturb a right of way under the Rights of Way Act 1990, the occupier must thereafter make good the surface to not less than its minimum width and indicate the line of the path.

Villagers were heartened to hear on Friday that following representations to the Borough Council the landowner had been instructed to fulfil those obligations for the Coffin Path (footpath 13). Similar action needs also to be taken to restore the section of footpath 10 which has been destroyed.

And, of course, villagers must remain vigilant in the event the  landowner may prevaricate or may mount another attack on these paths or other paths in the future. The landowner has been asked to contact the Borough Council if they intended to cultivate any more Public Rights of Way in the area in order that they can be advised of locations and widths. 

Watch out too for the Conservation Area report due to be issued for consultation  sometime this year, which will be an opportunity once more to stress the importance of the preservation of the Coffin Path as part of the village’s heritage, and hopefully that can then be enshrined in conservation requirements to be observed in the future.

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.