maybe not, but a good view of (& from) the old Golf Club!
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?
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.
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.
As work continues on the housing development at the west, Biddenham, end of the land north of Bromham Road, the access road into the development from the roundabout on the bypass is now being opened up.
Meanwhile to the west of that development, on the other, Bromham, side of the bypass work is going apace on developing the playing fields and the changing facilities are also underway.
And through it all the Canada geese amuse themselves by the large pond between the bypass and the river.
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:
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’.
‘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.
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.
update – 7 February 2016
With the new bridge now straddling the Midland Mainline line north of Bedford station, the completion of the Northern Bypass looks very much on schedule (date yet to be confirmed), but …
update – 11 February 2016
At the February Parish Council meeting, Jon Gambold reported that the opening of the bypass may be delayed due to potential major road works required on Tavistock Street that are expected to take six weeks. Concerns were raised that if the bypass is opened before the Tavistock St work is completed, substantial volumes of traffic will come via the bypass to Biddenham and then along Bromham Road to get to Bedford!
So the present plan is to delay opening the bypass until the work on Tavistock St. is completed, it is understood this work has not yet begun – watch this space!