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.
Local Plan 2035 Consultation Planning Policy Team
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:
the continuation of Biddenham as a semi-rural village as demonstrated by trees, open grass areas, wildlife and its local community spirit;
the provision of space for the community’s residents and families for play, leisure and relaxation;
a natural break in the ever-increasing presence of housing; and
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
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com or by post to:
Local Plan 2035 consultation
Planning Policy Team
Bedford Borough Council
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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:
the volume, massing and detail of the proposed alterations have little regard for the special character and visual qualities of the Conservation Area;
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;
the exclusively traditional subservient roof forms which characterise Church End have been ignored;
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;
the positive contribution made by the original building to the Conservation Area has been subsumed and cannot be identified; and
no reference is made to the boundary treatment in the plans as an element which has been identified as contributing to the Conservation Area.
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
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 name Kings Field for the development on the land north of Bromham Road commemorates the review there by King George V in October 1914 of the Scottish troops then stationed in Bedford.
That recognition is being extended further with the naming of the roads in the development at the east (Bedford) end of the site – so far signs are up for King George Avenue, Argyll Heath (after the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, just one of the regiments in the Highland Division in the town), and Caber Walk (after one of the events in the Highland Games held for the troops on Easter Monday in April 1915).
At the west (Biddenham) end of the site house building is now well underway, and over the bypass from there the roof on the changing rooms for the playing fields is nearly completed.
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 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.