Category Archives: Conservation area

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.

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.

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
                 Documents
                 View associated documents
Update – 29th June 2017
The application was subsequently refused by the planning authority.

Celebrations of our Queens 90th Birthday

Bedford – April 21st 2016
To celebrate our Queen’s milestone birthday, more than a thousand beacons were lit across the country, the Queen starting events by lighting the first beacon at 7pm outside Windsor Castle

Around the country, councils were are set to follow suit. In Bedford the Mayor (and local dignitaries) also lit the Bedford beacon on the Mound at 7pm

 

[photos courtesy of Bedford Borough Council, Communications and Marketing]

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.