DRUFC's Safety Fears Now That Trees Have Gone

The chairman of Dunstablians Rugby Union Football Club has made clear his frustration with the loss of trees and shrubs on the club's border with Bedford Road, Bidwell, Houghton Regis.

In a statement to Houghton Regis News Desk, DRUFC chairman, James Noel wrote, “Unfortunately, Dunstablians RUFC were not informed of the decision to remove the trees and bushes that have lined our boundary since the club opened on Bedford Road all those years ago.  So we were as surprised as the other local residents to see that the corner of our land, nearest to the precarious Thorn turn, was now totally exposed to passing traffic.  We believe by exposing the rugby fields in this manner, there is an increased risk to both people on our land and passing drivers - as they will now no doubt be distracted by being able to see many people running around in front of them, rather than just a tall line of trees & bushes.

“We immediately challenged the [Central Bedfordshire] Council on this matter and were told by Cllr Kane that following their review, they would not be taking the matter any further with Highways or developers, as they believe [they] acted within their rights.  So, if we wished to challenge the developers they would support us, but we would have to do so directly with the agencies at our own cost - not something a local amateur rugby club has the funds to do (and the developers know this).

“As a result, we have halted our Mini & Junior players from using that particular area of land for now, as we believe there is increased risk to them now that there is no longer a natural barrier to halt any errant cars who may come off the road on that bend.  Until we have another form of barrier there, we will reduce the use of that land on our property.

BEFORE - Photo Credit: Google Maps.

NOW Photo: A D Winter
BEFORE: Photo Credit Google Maps.

NOW: Trees have been removed leaving a gaping hole through to the Dunstablians RUFC ground.

“As far as the rumour that houses will be built on the Club's land - that is NOT true and we have never seen any plans that say otherwise.  We have received interest from various parties in the recent past, but we will NOT be selling the grounds any time soon.

“Dunstablians have an intense desire to continue to provide rugby for all at Bidwell Park for as long as we possibly can and we welcome the chance to be back within walking distance for thousands of local residents again.”

Thorn turn, the junction of Thorn Road and Bedford Road, where a new roundabout will be built later this year.

Mr Noel added, “I would point out that we have had absolutely no issues with the developers behind the rugby club (HRN1 development) - they have kept us informed every step of the way and asked for our opinion on a lot of the steps so far.”

The works at Bidwell Spinney were carried out as part of planning permission CB/15/00297/OUT for the Bidwell West Development Consortium (the major part of HRN2). Editor of Houghton Regis News Desk, Alan Winter, has pressed CBC to answer questions relating to the removal of trees on the edge of DRUFC which do not appear to be mentioned in the plans, although trees at the Spinney, opposite, are.

Mr Winter said, “The response I have had so far, from the communications team at Central Bedfordshire Council reads, 'Essentially, the works are advanced clearing works in association with the s.278 agreement for the new roundabout.'. There is the possibility of a fuller answer in relation to the trees on DRUFC side of the road.”

BEFORE: Bidwell Spinnet - a woodland on the corner of Thorn Rd and Bedford Rd has been removed.
- Photo credit Google Maps.

NOW - Bidwell Spinney has been removed. Photo: A D Winter

With reference to the loss of Bidwell Spinney, Sharon Mead, a local resident, wrote on Houghton Regis Planning Applications Facebook Group, “Once we had a special place called Bidwell Spinney at the bottom of our field, we enjoyed the badgers, deers, bluebells and the odd wonky tree house. No more of the wind rushing through the trees and the birds of prey soaring then using the top branches for cover. Now they have wiped Bidwell Spinney off the map and out of history 😢 Apparently it’s called progress....... Sad beyond words.”

Another Houghton Regis resident, Pat Hogan, commented, “It is not progress but soulless.”

Replanting scheme for Bidwell Spinney does not show plans for demolishing trees next to DRUFC.
Download larger plan (pdf)

One of the documents in the outline planning (p34) states that, “The existing Bidwell Spinney is likely to represent a degraded Planted Ancient Woodland Site (PAWS) with reference to the species present in the ground flora.

“There would be a minor loss of extent within the periphery of this woodland to facilitate the construction of a new roundabout and the associated upgrades to Thorn Road. This would necessitate the removal of trees within 30m of the existing road to avoid issues associated with windblow following the removal of perimeter trees.

“The opportunity is being taken to remove all poplar trees from the plantation, targeting the retention of non-poplar species where practicable, with a view to developing a more semi-natural habitat. A proportion of the felled poplar will be left whole in situ, with log piles and brash piles also constructed to create a range of deadwood habitat which will develop value for invertebrates over time.

“The northern periphery would be sown with a species-rich meadow mix – see notes below – whilst the area outside of the 15m would be planted with a tree and shrub mix targeted towards the provision of year-round foraging habitat for dormice. The ground flora would be boosted through the oversowing with a native woodland seed mix.”

The HRN2 scheme includes plots of land on the northern and southern sides of Thorn Road, Houghton Regis.

Curiosity Spot - on the 1762 survey map, 'Thorn Road' was marked as 'Dog Lane'.
The Survey Map was copied in 1766 and is held at Bedford Public Records Office.
When rolled out, the Survey Map covers an area of several table tennis tables.