The application last June for 15 houses on the paddock between Church End and Great Denham was withdrawn following much local opposition. Now the developer is back with a fresh application to construct 5 dwellings on the site, following the success of another developer (on Appeal) to build 249 properties west of Gold Lane. Once again this application must be vigorously opposed, not just to preserve one of the few remaining green spaces in the village, but also because it will close the vital gap with Great Denham, and with its new housing will affect the historic character of this part of the village.
The Biddenham Society (founded 1965)
Church End paddock threatened again
Blakeney Estates Ltd (Mr O Doyle) has served notice in the local press that the proprietor intends to apply for planning permission to construct 15 dwellings on the 2.5-acre paddock between nos. 21 to 41 Church End and the golf course, demolishing the existing property of 21 Church End to provide access. This will be the developer’s fourth attempt in the last ten years to build on the site, all previous applications having been refused and the subsequent appeals dismissed.
The paddock is one of the few remaining green spaces in the old village, and is separated from the golf course and its housing by a popular public footpath running from Manor Road to The Branston Way.
This developer has a long history of back land development all over Biddenham. Many residents will be unaware of the extent of this, as the properties are often not easily visible from the public highway. Unfortunately, the outcome has been to obliterate many of Biddenham’s remaining green spaces, as well as having knock-on effects on the routes of underground water courses.
When the formal application is submitted, the society will once again be objecting to the development, and we urge residents to do likewise.
Tony Wood, Chairman
The Biddenham Society
In 2016 the Biddenham Society successfully had ‘White Cottage’, 34 Day’s Lane, listed to avoid any possible demolition of this historic property, one of the few Arts and Craft houses in the village. An application has now been submitted for a variety of repairs, alterations and extensions to the main house, and for the construction of a substantial annexe in the garden.
Whilst the society is prepared to support many of the repairs and alterations, we have serious concerns on a number of matters including the choice and use of the materials proposed which we believe will compromise the design and setting of the building. We have made our reservations known to the planning authority and suggested ways forward for consideration.
We are however completely opposed to the construction of the annexe which, in our view, is quite inappropriate. The structure would not only compromise the house itself, but also the important relationship between the house and the garden design for which the architect achieved renown, and which was lauded by the famous Gertrude Jekyll and continues to influence garden design to the present day.
Full details of the application can be found on the borough’s website by quoting 18/00877/FUL or 18/00878/LBC.
DEVELOPER PLANS 300 HOUSES TO GRAB MOST OF THE FARMLAND WEST OF GOLD LANE
On 31st October 2017 a meeting was held between interested parties and the proposed developers of a modest area of farmland west of Gold Lane bounded by Gold Lane to the east, Bromham Road to the north and Duck End Lane to the south, on which the local authority had suggested 160 dwellings would be appropriate. Those attending included local councillors, the Parish Council and Friends of Biddenham Pond as well as the Biddenham Society. The developers Curtin and Co. were accompanied by a representative from Lioncourt Strategic Land.
The Biddenham representatives were astonished instead to be confronted with a plan for 300 houses covering an area nearly four times that provisionally suggested by the local authority as appropriate. Houses would completely surround Duck End Lane as far south as the village pond, and extend west to the footpath between the church and the Bromham bypass. Whilst the developers insisted the plans presented were only ‘Work in progress’ it was very clear that any adverse views expressed would make no difference to the overall size of the scheme proposed.
The developer’s tactics were seen by all present as a flagrant attempt to grab most of our remaining open space for the pecuniary gain of themselves and the landowners, and without any regard for the effects on the village and its residents. Our unanimous opposition was made clear, and in a subsequent private discussion the next course of action to be taken to prevent the proposed development was decided.
Update: May 2018
Update: January 2018
Update: 4 October 2017
8 Main Road demolished!
Update: 1 September 2017
After due consideration, and despite widespread objections, the planning committee approved this application following adjustments to the height and nature of the front boundary. It is also regrettable that, when considering applications in Biddenham for demolition and replacement with larger properties, officers now regularly cite the existence of previously approved large developments in Main Road and Biddenham Turn as justification, even though ‘precedence’ is not recognised in local planning law
Planning application 17/01738/FUL
seeks approval to demolish the existing property at 8 Main Road and replace it with a new dwelling of substantial size and contemporary design.
The architectural style and mass are not replicated in other properties on Main Road, which is more typified by single houses of varying character which do not detract from their surroundings.
The roadside boundary of the site fronts the Biddenham Conservation area, and any development will therefore have a significant impact on the special character of this pretty part of Biddenham, and on the setting of the grade 2 listed building opposite.
The society believes the proposed replacement building is not contextually appropriate in respect of size, scale, massing, architectural character, relationship with nearby buildings, and alignment and treatment of the setting, and has recommended that planning permission is refused.
On 28th July 2017, contractors for the landowner once again destroyed a major section of the historic Biddenham Coffin Path by indiscriminate ploughing. This despite the various approaches made to him by the Parish Council and the Biddenham Society following the previous occasion. It appears the Wingfield Estate has scant consideration for villagers and the many other users of this attractive right of way.
The society will again pursue this matter, but if the landowner continues to be unwilling to make any effort to address the regular desecration of this historic and popular route, it may be necessary for more direct action to be taken.
The Biddenham Society (founded 1965)
Chairman: Dr Tony Wood
Just a quick note to keep you all up to date:
I have asked Jack Hawkesworth to forward your email to Mr Wingfield. It says it all.
& I spoke to Jack Hawkesworth yesterday, who had previously told me the path would be reinstated on Monday. He said this would be done to a decent width, with a tractor wheel. He told me this had not been done as expected due to the weather; the field is far too waterlogged to attempt the work. I guess it will be done once the rain stops and things dry out a bit.
It won’t be long before it is seeded with grass, at which time I believe Jack is saying the path will be rolled flat properly.
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.
The Biddenham Society
Local Plan 2035 Consultation Planning Policy Team
Bedford MK42 9AP
30 May 2017
RESPONSE TO BEDFORD BOROUGH COUNCIL’S 2035 LOCAL PLAN CONSULTATION
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
A decision on the application is awaited.
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