Fears of Anti-Social Behaviour and for Chalk Cliff Stability

Two principal objections have been lodged by the Wildlife Trusts with Central Bedfordshire Council planning department regarding the proposed building of homes at a site designated as Bidwell Heights — lack of a solid boundary to the quarry and stability of the cliff edge.

And an ecology consultant has welcomed plans for low lighting and the retention of a wildlife corridor between the nearby Bluewaters woodland and the quarry edge.

Part of the development site is this field adjacent to Plaiters Way

The site is situated between the northern edge of the Houghton Regis Chalk Quarry and Blue Waters Woodland at Bidwell, Houghton Regis. 336 homes are planned for Countryside Properties Ltd and the planning application is in support of a Reserved Matters submission for residential development of land west of Bidwell, Houghton Regis, Parcels 5a & 5b. Countryside Properties was first founded in 1958. The company has 60 years worth of housebuilding experience with a reputation for high-quality design and build.

Chalk cliff to the right, much of this sloping field would be built upon under this application

In their letter to the planning officer, The Wildlife Trust Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire voice the concern that the present plans do not “incorporate a solid and permanent barrier between this development and the chalk pit” and secondly, “by building so close to the chalk cliff... it could adversely affect the stability of the chalk cliff along this section both in the short and long term. ”

The chalk pit is recognised locally and nationally as being important for wildlife and it is protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) and Countryside and Rights of Way Act, 2000.

The now uncultivated slope is designated as a building zone for 336 homes with Bluewaters Woodland in the background

On the proximity to the edge of the chalk cliff they write, “We strongly recommend that a robust engineering operation is designed and incorporated into the plans, at this stage of the process, to ensure that the stability of the chalk cliff is not weakened as part of any development that takes place in this location.”

On the lack of a barrier, the Trust said, “without a solid and permanent barrier between the development and the chalk pit, there would be an increase in anti-social behaviour along this boundary, including the disposal of fly-tipping and garden refuge and the creation of new access points by unauthorised vehicles (cars and motorbikes) and people onto the chalk pit. This site has a long history of ongoing problems associated with fly-tipping and unauthorised vehicle access, which has continuously undermined its primary purpose for nature conservation. We strongly recommend that the plans are amended to incorporate a solid and permanent barrier between the development and the chalk pit.”

The site perimeters (dotted edge). See zoomable Houghton Regis Places Map 
Ecologist consultant Liz Anderson points out the value of the Bluewaters woodland for species including badgers, birds and bats, “The retention of the existing woodland to the south of the site is noted, as is an area of wildflower planting which would effectively severe links to woodland outside the red line boundary. Any landscape scheme needs to be informed by an up to date ecological appraisal. The landscaping scheme needs to enhance what is on the ground and ensure habitats are buffered from the built development and connectivity is maintained. The access road joining the two development parcels is not currently shown as being lit which is welcomed. The ability of wildlife to move north-south across the site to Bluewaters from the Quarry is important and the introduction of a lit corridor will be detrimental. Any lighting proposed would need to be low level at the open space intersection to minimise disturbance.“

Alan Winter, HRND editor, “Reading through the other internal memos on this application, one gets the impression that this application has a long way to go before it satisfies the critics in the Housing, Highways, Drainage and Tree departments.” 

The Design Compliance Statement from the application [link] states that:
4.1 Parcels 5a & 5b, referenced as CA5 - Bidwell Heights within the Design Code, are located towards the southern part of the Bidwell West development and at the southernmost end of Main Street with a key building frontage overlooking this primary route. Bidwell Heights also overlooks Houghton Regis Marl Lakes SSSI to the south and the existing Bluewaters Woodland to the north.

4.2 Bidwell Heights will provide an attractive outlook over the SSSI. Planting buffers will be provided along edges where the development abuts the existing settlement of Houghton Regis to respect the privacy and amenity of residents.

4.3 Pedestrian footpaths and connections will be provided through the development linking to the surrounding context. Bidwell Heights’ key defining features include:
• A rural theme with the use of buff brick, reconstituted stone features, timber and looser forms of development;
• Building frontages overlooking the community wildlife site and the SSSI;
• Keynote buildings at key corners of development parcels with views and vistas of the surrounding open space network; and
• Green buffers along the edges of the character area, where it abuts the existing settlement of Houghton Regis.

Wildlife Trusts BCN comments in full

All comments on this application see cbc planning pages

See also: Bidwell Heights - New Scheme for 336 Homes Close to Chalk Pit

Find out more about the plans at the Central Bedfordshire Planning website and search for CB/19/03232/RM (direct link to documents). Comments can be sent by email to planning@centralbedfordshire.gov.uk

Discuss planning applications on Houghton Regis Planning Applications Facebook Group.

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