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.