Saturday, 19 August 2017

Working with Dogs Trust To Prevent the Heartbreak of a Stolen Pet

Dog theft is on the rise, and as such, Neighbourhood Watch and Dogs Trust are urging the public to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity. In 2016 alone, nearly 1,800 instances of dog theft were reported to police forces across England and Wales. 

Information obtained by Dogs Trust through a Freedom of Information request also reveals that gardens, closely followed by the home, are the most common areas from which dogs were reported stolen. Lee Paris, Campaigns Officer at Dogs Trust, told Our News : "It is a sad day when we have to issue these types of warnings, but with instances of dog theft becoming more prevalent, we want to ensure that dog owners are aware of the dangers so that they can help keep their beloved pets safe. Theft of any item is distressing, but when a dog is stolen, who many consider a part of the family; the experience can be even more distressing." 

The most common breed of dog reported as stolen was the Staffordshire Bull-terrier, followed then by the Jack Russell, Chihuahua and the Bulldog. But Dogs Trust warns that any dog, whatever the breed, is at risk of theft if left unsupervised. 

Lee continues: "By making small changes to the garden and the home, and by registering to a local Neighbourhood Watch scheme, we hope we can help reduce the number of dog theft instances. The message we want to get across when it comes to garden security is that we want to keep the dog in, but keep thieves out!" As such, Dogs Trust advises never to leaving your dog unattended, and has put together the following advice on how to help protect your dog from the risk of theft and what to do should the worst happen. 

Whether you own a dog or not, intruders should not be able to access your garden or property.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Fresh Start Catering to Operate Houghton Hall Park Café

Ground clearance at start of café building project

Central Bedfordshire Council is pleased to announce the contract for the Visitor Centre café at Houghton Hall Park has been awarded to Fresh Start Catering.

The café will serve a variety of local produce, coffees, hot food and refreshments for park users, and will also have the potential for hospitality catering and event opportunities.

Staff are currently being recruited for particular role opportunities and a small focus group will meet on August 31st to provide feedback for pricing and menu options.

Andrew Howarth, Business Development Director at Fresh Start Catering said, “Our philosophy is based around serving fresh, locally sourced healthy menus for all age ranges. Some of our fruit and vegetables will be grown in the kitchen garden at Houghton Park thanks to the Head Gardener.

We want the Park Café to be part of the local community supporting local suppliers and employing from the Houghton Regis area.

We look forward to meeting all our new customers in this beautiful new café and we very much look forward to opening this new facility.”

Houghton Hall Park is a publicly accessible urban park located centrally within the town of Houghton Regis. It plays an important role in the history, culture and landscape of the local area.  The Renaissance and Renewal Project, a partnership between Central Bedfordshire Council and Houghton Regis Town Council and made possible by National Lottery players through a £2.19m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and the Big Lottery Fund, aims to restore the vitality of the park, celebrating local heritage and improving visitor facilities to meet the needs of a growing local community.

About the Heritage Lottery Fund

Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. @heritagelottery @HLFEoE

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Take A Childcare Traineeship At The Kingsland Skills Hub

A traineeship could be your first step to your dream career

If you are looking to work in childcare but have no work experience, a traineeship could be perfect for you.

It’s just one of the opportunities that the Central Bedfordshire Academy of Social Work and Early Intervention is offering learners over the coming months.

Traineeships give people with no work experience the chance to gain vital skills both in a classroom setting and in a local nursery or pre-school.

Megan Rump started her dream of working in childcare by doing a traineeship and is now a year and a half into a two-year Advanced Childcare Apprenticeship at Downside Pre-School, in Dunstable where she will achieve a Level 3 Diploma in Early Years Education.

She said: “When I finished college I was finding it very difficult to find work. So, I went to 4YP, who are a charity, and the lady there was really helpful and got me on to a traineeship.

“I really enjoyed the traineeship – you get lots of support when you are doing it and I was with a small group of really nice people. I did work experience for two days a week at Downside and they liked me and offered me an apprenticeship.

“I would say to anyone thinking to do a traineeship to just have a go. It gives you a chance to see if you really want to do something before you get too involved.”

If that’s inspired you then our next traineeship taster day is on Wednesday, 30 August, from 10am to 3pm at Kingsland Employment and Skills Hub, Parkside Drive, Houghton Regis, LU5 5PY.

For more information, visit or check out @academyinspiringfutures on Facebook.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Will Your Road Be Salted During Extreme Weather?

When the snow falls, will you be able to get to work? And will the wheels of local business be able to carry on turning?

Central Bedfordshire Council is seeking the public’s views on the planned routes that the council (and its emergency services partners) have identified as a priority in the event of extreme weather.

A 'Resilient Highways Network' identifies the particular roads that would be given priority during adverse events, such as extreme weather. When extreme weather occurs (floods, storms, ice, snow etc), the main concern for Central Bedfordshire Council will be to keep these roads open in order to maintain economic activity to town centres, industrial estates and business parks, and access to key services such as schools, railway stations, key food shops, petrol stations, hospitals, police, fire services etc.

These are the main roads around Dunstable and Houghton Regis that they will aim to keep open:
View the full list
The consultation is open from 7 August 2017 until 30 October 2017. You can have your say by answering a questionnaire on the Council's website or you can pick up a paper copy from the library.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Red House Roof Issues - A Cause For Concern

By Alan Winter
Ridge tiles off, and clay roof tiles missing. This was the sorry state of the roof of a Grade II Listed Building in Houghton Regis this morning. The building, known as The Red House, is owned by Central Bedfordshire Council who say they will be erecting scaffolding "this summer".

Concern was raised on social media at the end of July by a former town councillor, Deborah Hamill, who wrote, "Went to the bottle bank this afternoon, tiles off the roof in places, fence down looks completely run down. The next thing you will be telling us it has to come down because it hasnt been protected!!! For goodness sake we let planners ruin our village years ago, lets look after what we have left!!!"

Central Bedfordshire Council issued a statement at the end of July saying, "Over the summer scaffolding will be going up around the Grade II listed Red House. This will allow us to carry out a full structural survey of the property to work out what needs to be done to retain this important asset and keep it safe. Once the survey has been completed, we will be applying for Listed Building consent to undertake works to prevent further deterioration, and will use traditional materials where possible to maintain the character of the building."

The Red House is owned by Central Bedfordshire Council and was occupied by tenants who were moved out, and the place was then boarded up as a precaution against intruders. The house been incorporated into 'Houghton Regis Central', a new development for an independent living scheme for older people. The main new building will provide 170 living units and will include the demolition of Red House Court in Clarke's Way. Residents from Red House Court are expected to be among the first to occupy the new building when it is constructed.

The Council are in talks with the Houghton Regis Heritage Society over the future use of the Red House, currently boarded up.  No decision has been made and the Council add that they will continue to work with the Heritage Society and keep them involved in future discussions and meetings.

Roger Turner, from the Heritage Society, confirmed on 23 July, "The Heritage Society expressed concern to CBC about the current state of the Red House and when we met with CBC recently, we were told that repairs to the roof will start very soon. Scaffolding will be put up and tarpaulins put over to protect it whilst work us underway. A lot of work will be done inside to make the building water tight and safe. The Heritage Society will be working with CBC to plan the future use of the Red House."

  • As you can see from these pictures, there are no tarpaulins up.

One of the ward's CBC councillors, Cllr Susan Goodchild wrote in response to points made on social media, "The funding for the Houghton Central development which includes the Red House is being funded from the Central Bedfordshire Council's housing revenue account. I am sure you are aware of the huge benefits that this provision will provide to our residents now and for many years to come. I am delighted with the work that the Houghton Regis Heritage Society is undertaking in having very meaningful discussions with Central Bedfordshire Council and supporting them shape to [the] provision of the Red House. Just another example of the amazing voluntary community groups which we have in our Town. It is helping our community to become stronger and hopefully sustainable in the years to come."

Planning permission for the site redevelopment was approved in November 2016 subject to various conditions about conserving the heritage of the area and site, protecting local residents’ privacy and safeguarding the boundary of the site.

Alan Batham wrote on Social Media in December 2016, "My mum n dad lived here for years when it was split into 2 flats. Its a beautiful old building, full of features and character, it needs some serious money spent on it to bring it to its former glory but its part of Houghtons history and should be preserved."

Roger Giugno, a local builder wrote in December 2016, "The renovation side of things although extensive could come in at quite a reasonable amount if local companies are put at the top of the preferred bidder list rather than bussing in companies from out of the area and competitive quotes are gained rather than using a select 'circle' of companies."

Darren Coleman-Heald wrote on 26th July, "At the rate it is deteriorating there will be nothing left to incorporate".

Andy Swain-y, on 28th July was concerned, "The question needs to be asked why on earth was it allowed to get in this state in the first place, there's only one reason why you let something sit and Decay you want it gone, it will probably look out of place when all the new buildings are in place so let's run it down have a survey and say it's in disrepair."

Roger Giugno was even less impressed, commenting, "here we have a blatant abuse by CBC of neglect and it aint going to happen. Councils and cllrs long gone have ruined Houghtons Heritage and this is one last remaining building that should be preserved."

Artist impressions of the house and finished development:

THE RED HOUSE- "Extract from Historic Building Assessment by Albion Archeology" 

The building comprises a 2½-storey primary range dating from the 17th century with a two-storey rear extension and a single-storey southern range.
The primary range has a 2½-bay plan. The half bay in the middle of the house contains a central chimney stack, lobby entrance and a circulation space at the rear of the stack. The bay to the south of the stack is slightly longer than the bay to the north. The rooms comprise two ground floor living rooms, two first-floor bedrooms and a landing on the south side of the stack. The attic rooms are currently only accessible from a hatch in the ceiling of the first-floor landing.
The two-storey extension extends across the rear of the middle and northern bays. It consists of a single storey outshot to which a first-floor extension was added in the 20th century. On the ground floor, it has been extended into the primary range with an open timber partition marking the line of the former rear wall of the primary range. This room is currently a kitchen and hall with stairs to the first-floor landing.
The southern range is a former 19th-century outbuilding which was converted for residential use in the 20th century. It contains a bathroom, toilet, kitchen and bedroom. Read more ... 

  • UPDATE 10th August - Scaffolding Goes Up.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Oakwell Park Planning Application Refused

An application to redevelop an area that includes parkland and a county wildlife woodland site with a scheduled monument, and a house that is being considered for a formal listing with a Building Preservation Notice, has been turned down.

A decision notice has appeared on the Central Bedfordshire Council Planning website today, as decided on 28 July 2017, delegated to council officers.

A campaign was launched by Alan Winter, editor at Houghton Regis News Desk, in January 2017, and gained 350 supporters in the first week, with 523 supporters at the end of July 2017.

Of particular note to the "Save the Building" campaign, the refusal of the outline planning permission states, "The proposed development would also necessitate the demolition of the existing house at Oakwell Park and its associated buildings which comprise heritage assets with both intrinsic and regional significance which are currently being considered for formal listing and subject to a Building Preservation Notice. Demolition of the dwelling and associated buildings would result in harm to the significance of these heritage assets. The proposed residential development is in conflict with the principles contained within the Houghton Regis (North) Framework Plan which requires that development proposals seek to preserve and enhance the heritage assets within and surrounding the site."

Additionally, the refusal notice also says the development would have a 'major adverse impact upon the setting of the scheduled monument.'  It 'would result in the removal of a number of protected trees that are considered to have a high amenity value which would be harmful to the landscape and green infrastructure value of the site'. There was also concern over cycle and foot access as well as highway capacity close to the site, and lack of an agreement for 30% affordable housing.

You can read the full refusal notice on the Councils Planning Website.

Alan Winter said today, "All that remains for me to say, is, 'thank you very much for being one of the 523 that signed the petition. It couldn't have happened without your help.'

Saturday, 29 July 2017

FireFighters Charity - Virtual Run

Lorraine Moore
Fire Safety Officer
 is proud to inform you that her Grandson, Cameron Moore (Age 12) is in his fourth year of raising money for The Firefighters Charity.

This year he has organised a Virtual Run, a Virtual Run is where you pick the distance that you would like to run during the month of August (you can run, jog, walk or use a treadmill).

The distances are 5km, 10km or 20km.  You complete this at your own pace during the month so you can either do it in one hit or you can do lots of short runs over the month.

Once you have achieved the distance you signed up for, you send evidence via email to Cameron.  This can be screenshots of the treadmill, Strava App, Nike running App, fitness watch, map my run or similar to prove that you have completed your target. Once Cameron receives this he will send you out your medal.

The entrance fee is £10 for adults and £8 for children under the age of 14 (as of 31st August) and all profit goes to the Firefighters Charity.

You can scan the QR code on the attached poster which will take you straight to the application form or you can visit Cameron's Facebook page.

Once you have filled the application form in, Cameron will send you a PayPal request within 48 hours.

If you don't have a PayPal account or you would prefer to fill out a paper application form please email either myself or Stacey

Monday, 24 July 2017

Bug Lab Is Coming to Houghton Hall Park !

Houghton Hall Park, Houghton Regis
Monday 31 July – two sessions

The popular Bug Lab event will be returning to Houghton Hall Park in Houghton Regis this summer with two sessions for you and your children to hunt for mini-beasts with experts on hand and do a fun bug-related craft activity.

Organisers say that places are limited, so booking is essential - adults are free of charge with tickets available one per participating child at £3 each. Book at
 Session 1: 12.30pm – 1.15pm
 Session 2: 2pm – 3.15pm
 All children must be accompanied by an adult - not suitable for under 4s
 Please wear long sleeves, trousers and suitable footwear
 Outdoor event with little shelter
 No dogs please
 While equipment and guides are provided, the session involves group work and sharing of materials

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Wild Flower Planting in Houghton Hall Park

New areas of wild flower planting are being created in Houghton Hall Park.

The Park team point out that some bare areas will be appearing over the next few weeks. The areas first need to be prepared by ground clearance and spraying to prevent aggressive weeds from growing back and taking over the more fragile wild flowers. Once the area has been cleared and the soil raked then wild flower seed will be sown and the plants will appear soon afterwards.

The seeds to be used are a standard wild flower mix from a reputable supplier and consist of a variety of both native and other nectar-producing plants. This will provide colour, cover and, most importantly, a rich source of nectar and pollen for bees, butterflies and a host of other insects which will use the flowers as food sources. Other wildlife such as birds and bats will also benefit from the increase in insects in the Park.

The Park team hope that you will enjoy the added colour, variety and wildlife that these new areas will bring on your walks around Houghton Hall Park.

These colourful pictures of the park by Alan Winter.

Be An Xplorer!

Houghton Hall Park Xplorer Fri 28th Jul 2017. 11 - 12.45pm.

Xplorer is a family friendly fun navigation challenge that is educational and gives children a sense of adventure as they explore the park to find the markers. It involves a healthy mix of physical activity and decision making that the whole family can enjoy together.

Explore the Park, Find the Markers, Complete the Challenge, Have fun together!
Using a simple map the aim is to find a number of markers that are located around the park. At each marker, children need to identify what is pictured and enjoy learning a fun fact to tell their friends.

Work as a family to find the markers hidden around the park
Older children will have fun competing against their friends or other family members whilst younger children will enjoy the excitement of successfully finding the markers.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Councillors Confessions

On Tuesday night's Town Council Agenda were a couple of items to do with complaints. Both items were shrouded in mystery with regard to who was involved and the nature of the complaints.

The first item acknowledged that a Complaints Sub-Committee had held a meeting on 13th June 2017 and that the complaint was not upheld.

The second item was a Code of Conduct Complaint. This had been upheld by the Monitoring Officer at Central Bedfordshire Council who had recommended that training is provided in "Officer-Member relations and the role of the Town Council as an employer". The Town Council were asked to clarify how Code of Conduct complaints and associated outcomes are handled. After debate and demands for more information, the Town Council agreed that the relevant councillor or councillors will be provided with training, and the Corporate Services Committee would develop a Code of Conduct Complaint Handling Policy.

After the voting, Cllr James Carroll made a short statement in which he said he had been the councillor about whom the complaint had been upheld, in an incident last October. Cllr Tony Swain commended Cllr Carroll for his admission and admitted it had been him that had made the complaint. Cllr Joanna Hillyard then admitted it was her that had had a complaint made against her that had not been upheld.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

CBC Respond to Painting of Anthem for the Road

A response to adverse comments made on Houghton Regis News Desk about the blue painted fencing on the inside of the Woodside Link road has been received from Central Bedfordshire Council. The reply is marked Unclassified, which means if shared it would cause little or no damage to the Authority.

Many comments on the item were to do with cost and suggested that the money was not well spent. The Council says cost is a common theme on any social media postings about council projects.  The Council says this artwork element is very modest compared to the costs of the overall WSL scheme. One person claiming inside knowledge had stated on the Houghton Regis News Desk thread that the cost of the paintwork was £2341.68.

To the charge that 'the art scheme was bolted on after the scheme had bolted, denying the opportunity of any formal objection to it', and that there was no planning application, the Council says, " It was a requirement of the Development Consent Order for the Woodside Link that the scheme include ‘enhancement of elements to mitigate the visual impact’ as this was a concern of residents and the Town Council."

"The inspector for the DCO recommended that visual mitigation of these structures, via public art and/or landscaping be followed up and included in design proposals.  Detailed designs were to be approved by the Local Planning Authority under DCO Requirements 4 (detailed design & implementation), 5 (landscape mitigation), 8 (design of acoustic barriers) & 11 (materials).  Requirements, being a similar mechanism to planning Conditions, do not go to public/non-statutory or statutory consultees for further comment.  With regards to the public art itself needing planning permission, as I understand it mural’s do not require planning permission unless they are in a designated area, such as a conservation area."

The Council adds, "In hindsight, there could have far been wider involvement from the Town Council or a local community representative in the artist selection panel and this is a lesson learned to be taken forward."

The Council also points out that, "There has however been a lot of community engagement carried out, which provided the opportunity for comment and whilst the design concept was set by this point this did lead to changes and modifications to the final artwork.  For example, there was a large sign planned for the community orchard which people didn’t like so was pulled completely from the project."

To the suggestion that elements of the scheme might be changed, the Council has responded, "Given this element of the project is now nearing completion, the opportunity to make further changes or do further retrospective consultation has passed.  The only way this could be done would be if further funding were found, which we do not have."

To the suggestion that going forward there should be more publicity and explanation, especially for people not on social media, the Council has responded, "We can ask the communications team to do more on explaining the project to local residents – please let me know if you would like this and I will ask ... to contact you."


Read about it here on CBC website


Below was the post and adverse comments that first appeared on 12th June 2017:

Feedback from this Post


Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Town Council - "Cut-price Swampy" Jibe In E-mail Exchange

Houghton Regis Town Council is now so divided that the task of getting work done would appear to be, at best, very difficult. At least, from a spectator viewpoint, the meetings are stimulating, writes Alan Winter, the editor at Houghton Regis News Desk.

Last night's meeting was well attended by members of the public, some even from Dunstable, no doubt equally curious as to why the local Labour group leader, Cllr Kennedy (Parkside), had encouraged them to come along. As the same councillor had been barred from a local "Occurring" Facebook group a few days earlier, no doubt this helped to fuel their curiosity.

Tithe Farm, was under-represented at the meeting, being two down. It must be noted that apologies were given for one Labour councillor, but not for the other absent Labour councillor.  The numbers were crucial, for they could have made a big difference to the motions that followed, were debated, and voted upon.

Under public question time, it was queried what 'Former Community Services Arrangement', under the section marked 'Exclusion of Press & Public', was all about? A flurry of guarded answers provided by The Town Clerk, the Town Mayor (Cllr Joanna Hillyard, Community Ind, Parkside), and other councillors, told the meeting as much as they felt they could; it was a sensitive confidential, legal, matter to do with a former contractor and the council.

Even before the proper business of the meeting could begin, Cllr David Abbott (Ind, Tithe Farm) interrupted the flow by proposing two motions. The first one was requesting under the Council's Standing Orders, a written report from the Clerk asking why last week's Town Council meeting had to be abandoned even before it had started. Cllr Dixon-Wilkinson (Lab, Parkside) countered the motion saying he was consulted verbally about the abandonment. Voting on the motion was split in Cllr Abbott's favour, leaving the Clerk with the onerous task of now having to make a written report.

Cllr Abbott then announced another motion calling for Cllr Kennedy to be removed from the meeting for disorderly conduct. An unfortunate choice of words had arisen in an email from Cllr Kennedy to Cllr Hillyard, copied to other councillors, in which Cllr Kennedy had used the words, "It's about time you start acting like the chair of the town council and not a cut-price Swampy." All Councillors are bound by quite rigid Standing Orders and a Code of Conduct (both available at the Town Council's website). Debate hinged around where the comments were made. The  Clerk pointed out that the comments were not made in a meeting. Cllr Abbott insisted on his motion, at which point Cllr Kennedy made an unreserved apology towards Cllr Hillyard, the motion was withdrawn, and no vote took place.

The Proper business of the meeting then began in earnest, with the new Mayor, in office since the end of May, reeling off a long list of events she had attended in an official capacity. These had been:

  • Tithe Farm's Got Talent at Tithe Farm school
  • Army Benevolent Fund garden party
  • Cheering Volunteering at the Grove Theatre
  • Houghton Regis Primary School Summer Fair
  • The official opening of Dunstable's new Go-Kart centre
  • Big Lunch Community Picnic
  • Mayor of Harpenden Civic Service
  • Right Track Video launch
  • Kids In Action Key to the Door
  • Chiltern School visit to the council offices
  • Hospice At Home lunch
  • Houghton Regis Brownies visit to the council offices
Information was released that at the last count, £400 had been raised for her charities in addition to a lot of donations being made to helping homeless people through one of her chosen charities, Streetlife. And there was news that a Teddy Bear's Picnic was to be arranged for August 19th. (A public round of applause followed.)

Around the table, various councillors reported on their outside representative activities. Among them, Cllr Mrs McMahon (Community Independent, Tithe Farm) reported in depth in her capacity as outside representative on the Houghton Hall Park works. Cllr Wattingham (Lib Dem, Houghton Hall) reported on his time with the Memorial Hall, noting the sad passing away of Chris Kavanagh who had worked for many years to keep the Memorial Hall running. Her funeral would be this Thursday and Town Council would be laying a wreath. Cllr Sue Thorn (Lib Dem, Houghton Hall) reported on Citizen's Advice. Cllr Hines (Lib Dem, Houghton Hall) reported on Dial-A-Ride.

After a flurry of the council's usual business reports, and thanking the staff for all their hard work, the topic of office refurbishment came up.

A report had gone to the Council suggesting expenditure of some £20,000 on rectifying concerns with the state of the fabric of the building, but the report was limited by accessibility and some parts of the structure were overlaid. Suggested repairs might give the building an extended life of 10 to 20 years, although much more might be needed once work started. Cllr Abbott moved on 4 resolutions, with slight adjustments to those published in the Agenda. He argued that the growing town would need a larger office to accommodate staff, and more space would be required for meetings including any future new councillors. Dunstable operated with 40 staff, he said, and Leighton Linslade with 39. Houghton Regis could end up being bigger than both, and it currently operated with just 14 staff, he argued. He was in favour of not spending money on the current building, renting some office space, selling the freehold asset of the current site, creating a fund for a replacement building, and actively seeking a permanent location.

Cllr Slough (Lab, Houghton Hall) had other ideas. He argued that the Town Council offices were an appreciating asset, and there was no rent to pay. "£20,000 is not that much to pay, and we spent more than that on a tree!" said Cllr Slough in reference to the cedar tree at Houghton Hall Park. He suggested that under Cllr Abbott's plan the offices would need to relocate, and then relocate again with lots of disruption. The present large meeting room, he said, was not used 90% of the time, and staff could be put in here if needs be, while Council meetings were held elsewhere. "Why should we pay now for something that's going to happen in 15 years time?" Cllr Slough demanded to know, "[Houghton Regis] was already paying more in Council Tax than neighbouring towns. It was CBC that was forcing all the northern growth on the town, and it was they who should put their hands in their pockets."

Cllr Sue Thorn (Lib Dem, Houghton Hall) agreed with many things said by Cllr Slough. She wanted to know if other premises were available, and what would the cost be? She wanted to spend the £20,000 now and to start saving for a new building. Cllr Ellaway (Ind., Houghton Hall) had concerns about staffing matters such as toilets, staffing levels, and staff parking.

Cllr Carroll (Community Ind., Parkside) said he had big concerns about the current building, it had been taken over in 1988 as a temporary building, it had a steel structure and asbestos, and they needed a Town Council mechanism to start talking about this. He wanted more reports on the current building, the 'Condition Report' before the meeting had too many ifs and maybes.

The Clerk, Mrs Evans, was unsupportive of  Cllr Abbott. She said that there were no plans to increase staff, the number of councillors was a reactive process to the town's growth, and there was more value in looking at existing space (at this point there were some appreciative public hand-claps). Several motions were then voted upon to do with the building and wanting structural reports, with the voting split on each occasion.

The meeting then voted (again split), to go into private session to discuss matters to do with a 'Former Community Services Arrangement', whereupon press and public were asked to leave.

*LibDem members voted against their leader (not just abstaining) on almost every vote leaving him on his own.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

CBC - #Kingsland "There Have Been No Decisions, No Deals And No Secret Meetings"

Following last night's demonstration at the offices of Houghton Regis Town Council, Central Bedfordshire Council have issued the following statement,

"We want to clarify the latest position on the regeneration plans for the Kingsland site following the protest at the Houghton Regis Town Council meeting last night."

"We want to reassure the local community that there have been no decisions, deals or secret meetings. "

"Central Bedfordshire Council started discussions with Legacy about the potential redevelopment of the Kingsland site. Although discussions are continuing with Legacy no decisions have been made. We are continuing to explore regeneration options for both the Kingsland site and other areas of Houghton Regis.  We are particularly keen to ensure there is a quality education offer for the area and affordable housing for local residents.  We are still working with Legacy on this. "

"To help us with this we’ve recently attracted significant funding from central government to explore opportunities for regeneration of existing housing estates across Central Bedfordshire including Parkside and Tithe Farm in Houghton Regis. "

"With this broader regeneration and development in mind we are looking at Kingsland in the context of the whole area. This is obviously complex and will take some time to develop plans, consult with the community and come to fruition. We realise the slow progress is frustrating, but it is important that we do this right."

"It has always been our commitment to involve the local community as soon as we have some proposals to discuss. "

"Specifically we understand that the protest group have concerns about the impact any development may have on the wildlife on the shrub land. We are more than open to listening to people’s concerns and we take ecological concerns seriously. At a point when there is a proposal we would of course ensure that appropriate environmental impact studies are undertaken by independent specialists. We will share the findings and discuss any issues with the local community. If there is a need to consider any protected species then we will do so."

"The meeting between Central Bedfordshire Council and Houghton Regis Town Council on Monday evening was a regular meeting we have with the Town Council to update and discuss regeneration. The discussion on Monday was about how the two councils can work together to engage residents in improving the areas they live in  and to use the government funding we have secured to improve Houghton Regis. "

"If anyone has questions or concerns about development issues in Houghton Regis or elsewhere in our patch, please contact us at "

Kate McFarlane
Group Manager Business and Investment
Regeneration and Business Directorate

Central Bedfordshire Council Central Bedfordshire Council, Monks Walk, Priory House, Chicksands, Shefford, Beds SG17 5TQ
Direct Dial: 0300 300 5858  |  Internal: 75858  |

Houghton Regis Town Council issued a statement last night 

"Due to health & safety concerns arising from a public disturbance outside the council offices tonight, the scheduled town council meeting is postponed. The revised date will be advertised in due course. Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience caused."

From our Facebook Page 26th June 2017


Friday, 23 June 2017

In The Event of a Disaster in Houghton Regis, How Would Central Bedfordshire Manage It?

CBC has responded to HRND's questions.

The chief exec of Kensington and Chelsea council has resigned over criticism of that council's response to the Grenfell Tower fire.

No-one wants a disaster locally, whether it's a plane crash, a meteor, or massive fire, but the question is an important one that we'd all like to think that our local authority is organised for.

HRND asked Central Bedfordshire Council, 
"In the event of a disaster happening in Houghton Regis, who will take charge of the situation, and how quickly will you be able to put people in position to command, control, and re-house any affected members of the public?"

A full response has been sent by Marcel Coiffait, the Director of Community Services, on behalf of Richard Carr, the Chief Executive of Central Bedfordshire Council:

"The Council has a well-rehearsed Emergency Plan process and a range of staff specially trained to take charge at operational, tactical and strategic levels (Bronze, Silver and Gold); at the strategic level this is most likely to be the Chief Executive or one of the Council’s Directors who takes charge on behalf of CBC,  however we need to be able to rotate staff as emergencies can be long running. We are also members of the Bedfordshire and Luton Local Resilience Forum (and indeed we co-ordinate this body) which is a grouping of Emergency services, Councils, health, military and volunteer partners and we have agreed plans to work together and provide mutual support as required. We also train and practice our responses together."

"In the event of a disaster happening in Houghton Regis, Central Bedfordshire Council would activate its Crisis Management Plan."

"If the emergency was site specific then there would be an Forward Command Point set-up at the scene and each relevant agency would send a representative usually known as Bronze Commanders. This group of officers (from Police, Fire, Ambulance, Local Authority, Voluntary Sector etc) would work together to manage the immediate operational issues of the emergency."

"If the emergency was large enough a multi-agency tactical group may be activated and the Council would deploy one of our trained Silver Commanders to this group. Again with an even larger incident a multi-agency Strategic Group would be activated and the Council would deploy a Gold Commander to this group."

"Within the Council we would open up our Emergency Control Centre, which is the hub for the coordination of information and resources to aid the response. In the initial response to an emergency the Council’s role is to assist the emergency services, coordinate the voluntary sector involvement, look after people that have been displaced and look after the vulnerable. After the emergency response phase the Council would become the overall lead agency for recovery.

"To answer your other questions:

1.      Who will take charge of the situation – in a multi-agency response Bedfordshire Police would initially take overall charge of the situation and Chair a Strategic Coordinating Group of which the Council would attend. The Council would nominate a Gold Commander who would have overall responsibility for the Council's response.

2.      How quickly will you be able to put people in position to command and control – depending on the scale of the incident we would have a Bronze on the scene as soon as possible (we operate a 24 hour emergency response service). We would deploy officer to Tactical and Strategic Command Group also within hours of being activated.

3.      How quickly will you be able to re-house any affected members of the public – the initial response to any emergency where evacuation is required the Council working closely with the voluntary sector would establish an Assistance Centre of a suitable size and in a place of safety for people to initially go to. This would be open for the duration of the emergency. We aim to have a centre opened with basic resources deployed within 2hrs of the need for one being recognised. For smaller emergencies we often put up affected residents in hotel or B&B accommodation if they are unable to return to their homes that night. If people were unable to return to their homes and did not have suitable insurance, which would cover this and had nowhere else to go we would have to look into a medium to longer term accommodation plan."

◘ If you would like more information our emergency planning officer would be very happy to talk with you. or 0300 300 4439.

◘ People can also volunteer to become part of our Community Emergency Response Team. To find out more about emergency preparedness in Bedfordshire please visit the Local Resilience Forum partnerships website

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Improvement Plan Lifts Need For Close Scrutinisation of Bedfordshire's NHS

NHS England has removed special measures on Bedfordshire's health body, after it delivered on an improvement plan to stabilise its finances and put the organisation on a firmer footing.

Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group was placed under 'legal directions' in 2015 after it delivered a £42m uncontrolled loss over the previous two years.

The 'legal directions' meant that a new Accountable Officer and Executive team was appointed and the organisation was closely scrutinised to ensure better financial management and corporate governance was put in place.

The organisation also increased its clinical leadership, appointing a number of clinicians, including a new chair to the health body, to ensure that all decisions were made with patients in mind.

Dr Alvin Low, Chairman of Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group said, "We are delighted that NHS England has lifted 'legal directions'. It is a resounding endorsement of the hard work and commitment shown by the Executive team and our staff over the last two years.

Much work has been done to steady the ship and strengthen the organisation, while ensuring that we continue to deliver quality health care services to residents in Bedfordshire."

In 2017, Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group delivered a surplus for the first time since it was created in 2013, whilst also paying back some of the deficit it accrued in the previous two years.

Dr Low said, "While this is terrific news, we need to be mindful of challenges ahead, especially in terms of managing our finances when our population is growing in size and need. However, this process has made us a stronger and more resilient organisation than we were before and we will continue to work hard to make a difference to the health of the communities we serve in Bedfordshire."

Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group is responsible for planning, organising and buying NHS-funded healthcare for the 441,000 people who live in Bedfordshire. This includes hospital, community health and mental health services.

·         BCCG is run by GPs, nurses, hospital doctors and other clinicians – the people you see whenever you come into contact with the NHS. All 53 GP practices in Bedfordshire are members of the CCG which is divided into five areas, which we call localities. These are: Bedford, Chiltern Vale, Leighton Buzzard, Ivel Valley and West Mid Bedfordshire and all of the 53 GP practices in Bedfordshire are members.

Monday, 19 June 2017

New Independent Group on Houghton Regis Town Council

Two Independent Houghton Regis Town Councillors have formed a group on Houghton Regis Town Council so that they can have representation at 'Leaders group' meetings.

The current mix of the town councillors is 6 Labour, 3 Liberal Democrat, 3 Community Independent Alliance, 2 Independent. This doesn't reflect the way the public voted in 2015 as some have changed the label under which they were originally elected.

In a statement Cllr David Abbott, Independent councillor for Tithe Farm, wrote on social media, "We have no fixed policies, and although we will discuss issues as they arise and will work in collaboration, we are free to speak independently and vote as each feels is appropriate.'

He added, "I fully expect that there will be issues where Councillor Ellaway's view will differ from mine and thus she will thus vote the opposite way, and likewise me, her. Further to this, I understand that our stance is almost the same as those Councillors who cooperate as members of the Community Independent Alliance. At least we, and I'm sure those in the CIA do likewise, are able to have a mature and mutually respectful discussion on what each person feels is best for the Town, but not be expected to vote a particular way due to some dogma imposed by a National Party agenda."

Cllr Abbott continued, "There exists within Houghton Regis Town Council a group that is non-publicised and extra-constitutional (meaning that such a group is not mentioned in any Council policy, terms of reference or Standing Orders). It is called the Leaders Group, where the leader of each political group has regular meetings with the Town Clerk. Legally, this group is not a decision making body within the Council, but it does meet and decisions are made, plus issues are discussed which then affect the agenda of Council and its committees. One example last April was the agreement to suggest to Council that a Working Group be disbanded. It is part way towards Cabinet government, but without openness and transparency."

"Councillor Ellaway and I are the only councillors who are not party to what goes on in this group as we have no group registration. Shortly after I [was] voted in as a Councillor in the 2015 election, I (as the only Independent at the time) put forward the view and argued that I should be entitled to attend and represent myself: this was refused. Thus Councillor Ellaway and I only get a précis version of what was discussed and any outcomes days, and sometimes weeks after each meeting."

"To me it has always been unfair, and I feel has put me at a disadvantage since being elected. Councillor Ellaway agrees with me, and by forming a group, even one that has no policies, no common view, and no requirement to vote a particular way, we have levelled the playing field."

Councillor Hillyard responded  "The Community Independent Alliance in Houghton Regis was formed at the 2015 election because the 3 independent members elected wanted to put the needs and voice of the local community to the council table and like everything lots of voices together are stronger than one. We are able to openly discuss issues arising in the Town with out any party policies and work together with others to find a collective way forward in a timely manner. Sometimes we will vote differently but this is rare, because together Houghton Regis and its current and future residents is our first priority.
"Party politics should not belong at this local level, it makes no difference to the CIA which "party" someone belongs to, we will work with any person/people to ensure Houghton Regis gets the best it can get."

For Labour, Cllr Martin Kennedy wrote, " All Labour Party members of HRTC have the interest of our town at heart. We are all volunteers as well. We aren't dictated to by the national or even the local constituency party -we decide, as a group of Houghton Regis residents how we can best serve the community. However, by standing as Labour councillors we give voters a clear indication of our priorities which will always be for the many, not the few. We are people who have personal experience of dealing with individuals problems in a variety of situations for, collectively, dozens of years. We are putting this knowledge and experience into our town because we are proud of where we live and the people who live here. Stating that you are not political because you don't align to a particular party could be seen as allowing you to promise all sorts of things without taking responsibility for the promises made."

Read more comments in context on Facebook.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Voluntary Service News Update June 2017

 Events and Courses
Summer Unconference - Tuesday 11 July, 10am – 4pm. Bunyan Meeting Rooms, Bedford.

Organised by Bedford Community Network, this is a free, delegate-led event for voluntary organisations in Bedford Borough.
An unconference is an unconventional conference which is organised, structured and led by the people attending it. There is no fixed agenda, no-one has selected the speakers before the event, no-one has decided for you what an 'Important Topic' is, and there will be no 'death by powerpoint' keynote speech!
If you have an idea for a session or a burning issue you'd like to raise then come to the event and pitch it, but you don't need to have all the answers!  If you don't have any ideas for a session, come to the event anyway, see what other people are suggesting and get involved!
The venue has multiple rooms so we can cater for several workshops and discussions. Once we've filled the timetable with all the interesting topics, you can choose what sessions you want to take part in and you'll get the chance to interact with others who share the same interests and to learn from each other.  The topics will be relevant to you (the delegates) because you suggested them.
Interested? Click here.
Running Effective Meetings - Tuesday 27 June, 9:30am – 1pm, Bedford - A half-day course designed to help those who chair or participate in meetings to understand how to run effective meetings that are constructive, concise and actually achieve something. Just £20 per delegate! For more information click here.
Tender Opportunity - Child & Adolescent Mental Health (CAMHS), Bedfordshire. An 'Industry Event' is being held on 23 June, 11am - 12.30pm, in Flitwick. Commissioners will be looking for 'innovative proposals to provide consistent access to evidence based interventions delivering demonstrable outcomes for Children, young people and their families as part of an integrated offer. The scope will include schools and early help activities, with a strong emphasis on service user and stakeholder engagement.' Click here.
Whitbread Plc Chairman's Fund – Awards of between £250 and £3,000 on projects fitting the three themes of the fund:
  • Skills and inclusion
  • The reduction of rural social isolation
  • Community cohesion
The fund has been created to support charities and community groups whose beneficiaries are from the South Bedfordshire communities of Dunstable, Houghton Regis, Leighton Buzzard and the outlying villages to the County boundary. Click here.
Merry Christmas! – Now is the time to start planning for Christmas! The closing date to register for The Big Give Christmas Challenge is 7 July. This scheme offers supporters of participating charities the opportunity to have their donation doubled when the campaign goes live in November. Click here.
 Other Information
Deaf drop-in service in Bedford – Deafconnect are running sessions every Wednesday, 10am-4pm, at CVS Offices. Deaf staff with an interpreter are offering help and support on a range of issues, including form filling, booking interpreters, benefits, housing and health. Click here.
Bedford Borough Council has produced a Draft Mental Health Accommodation Strategy, which is now out for consultation until 11 September. Click here.
Access2Books is a charity based in Bedfordshire whose mission it is to ensure that everyone has access to books. They take the most popular children's books in the UK and turn them into accessible books for people who have print disabilities. For more information click here.
Small Charity Week is 19-24 June – check out the website, which includes information on fundraising opportunities. Click here.
Changes to Data Protection law - Do you know what the GDPR is? The General Data Protection Regulation will apply from May 2018, setting out the main responsibilities for organisations and their use of personal data, including a new accountability requirement. Click here.
Mencap's 'Employ Me' program aims to develop peoples' employability skills through either weekly 1 to 1 meetings with an Employment Coordinator, or as part of a group session – whichever the individual prefers. Sessions cover everything from C.V. writing to health and safety, and anything else relating to work and the workplace. Whilst the ultimate aim is to find someone a paid job, they also aim to provide people with the skills they need to find paid work in the future, so even if you just need help finding the right training course, volunteering role or work experience, then Mencap can support you. More information on the Mencap website, but to make a local referral email
The NSPCC has published updated editions of two safeguarding publications:
  • Standards and guidance for the voluntary and community sector in England designed to help non-statutory organisations put in place clear safeguarding arrangements for children, young people and young adults up to the age of 25. click here.
  • Are they safe?: a safeguarding guide for group leaders in the voluntary and community sector, which provides a range of activities, support or services, from arts activities and hobbies to faith-based education or community work. Click here.

Education and Learning Manager, Relate Bedfordshire and Luton. The post will be based in Bedford and on a 12 months fixed term contract. Deadline, 5pm, 30 June. Click here.

CLOSING SOON! - Young Carer Peer Mentor Coordinator (maternity cover), Carers in Bedfordshire. Part-time. 28 hours a week. Grade 3: £20,065 FTE (starting salary); pro-rata for part-time hours. Evening and weekend working will be required. Deadline 12pm, 16 June. Click here.

Families United Network are recruiting to the following posts:

  • Support Workers for the Saturday Club in Luton
  • Cleaner for 6 hours a week

For more information click here.

Youth Inspired C.I.C have two vacancies. They are looking to recruit a Tutor and a Support Worker.  Closing date for applications for either of these roles is 30 June. Click here.