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."