Angry Resident Wants Peace Back as Chalk Pit Tourism Takes Off

By Alan Winter updated 27 May

An irate resident has contacted Houghton Regis News Desk to vent their frustrations about visitors to the Chalk Pit clogging up their unadopted roads.

The resident, who did not want to be named, wrote, “As a resident on Fieldstone, we’re after some help. The quarry has been advertised on social media so it now has visitors from a wide area. They are blocking our residential roads, leaving rubbish and glass everywhere in the quarry. Having BBQs, drinking and meeting for social gatherings. They are drinking and dancing in the streets gone 11pm. There needs to be parking and the quarry managed before all the recent hard work is undone. We want peace back.

“This parking and quarry issue has been going on for the last few weeks after advertising has appeared on social media. We heard someone say they had driven from Milton Keynes, and a neighbour has stated that 5 people he knows from Hemel Hempstead have attended. Just this morning, a friend from work saw it advertised this weekend on a St Albans Mum's Facebook page.








“The photographs were taken over the bank holiday weekend, but the parking is just the same again today (Tuesday). They flock in at all times of the day. Some of them don’t leave the quarry until gone 11pm. Only 3 of the cars parked along Fieldstone are owned by people who live here, the rest are all visitors. Today they are parked all along Lake View, too, and up by the Kia garage.”

The Houghton Regis Chalk Pit was managed by Wildlife Trusts BCN for five years following the new 140 housing development at Lake View, after the planning approval in 2010.


During the managed years, the Chalk Pit was much improved with volunteers cleansing the site of old cars, abandoned burnt out bikes, a very large quantity of rubbish, much of it floating on the marl lake. Part of the Chalk Pit is a SSSI, while another part is a County Wildlife Site.

Improvements during those years also saw the managed removal of scrub, the construction of a boardwalk across a wet area, and for a short time, a fishing club was able to operate. When the funding for the Wildlife Trusts ran out, the hard-won benefits were lost, and litter started to return. The site is currently in private ownership.

Over £1m of new management funding for 'Quarry Maintenance' will follow in tranches when so many homes have been occupied on the developments to the north of the Chalk Pit, where outline planning permission has been granted for up to 1,850 homes.

There is no official car parking for the Chalk Pit. During the managed period, a few vehicles were easily able to park in lay-bys close to the southern entrance.

Whether more car parking can be provided at the southern end, or even at the northern end once developments there are completed, remains to be seen. Clearly, the popularity of the site will continue. In the future, parking on residential streets to the north, once they are constructed, will also become a problem that needs to be addressed.

HRND editor, Alan Winter:

“18 years ago, I found the chalk pit at Houghton Regis.

“It was a foreboding place to be, private keep out signs, barbed wire, scattered with burnt-out cars, and the debris of abandoned quarrying works.

“Even now, after years of voluntary work to clean it up, there are cables buried so deep they cannot be removed without reasonable force, so are a potential danger to the unwary.

“But on the whole, it is a sanctuary for wildlife and flora, and a true delight to walk around and to escape the hum-drum of normal life. It is a recognised SSI and county wildlife site.

“You can search YouTube for drone video of the place, and even I contributed a video composed from some of my photos.

“Most of us do appreciate nature and respect it, and in all walks of life there's always a few that spoil it for others, and it is to them we have to constantly appeal to:

1. Take litter home with you.
2. Park sensibly, A walk is a walk, so a few extra 100 yards won't make a lot of difference if you are having to park up,
3. Keep noise down at night when leaving.
Regards, Alan.







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Comments

  1. I went down to the area today, and found the following: Yellow "Residents Only Parking" signs mounted. Along the streets and the lay-bys. As there are no yellow lines or signage about penalties applicable, my guess would be that it's not enforceable.
    Back in July the local residents had taken it upon themselves to padlock the the gate to the public footpath to the quarry with a sign saying it was closed due to not being able to comply with social distancing. This was the local residents trying it on, and it was unlocked and the path opened again - this is a PUBLIC footpath.
    Much as I understand some of the issues of local residents, the path and the quarry are not theirs to deny access to the wider public!
    The quarry has been there a lot longer than they have!

    Today, I find the main access to the quarry from the footpath closed, padlocked and with a similar sign to the one that was on the footpath. It has a message on it saying social distancing has been deemed not possible as the reason for closure - Ridiculous - look at the size of the quarry.

    Can anyone advise - is this an official and legit closure of the quarry, or is it once again, local residents taking matters into their own hands illegally?

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    Replies
    1. 1. The streets are unadopted by Central Bedfordshire Council, so the private management company will be entitled to put up signage.
      2. A public footpath has existed for a very long time, and the Rights of Way officer at CBC was informed of this rights of way infringement.
      3. As to the entrance to the privately owned chalk pit being padlocked, that will be a matter for the owners. I'll try and find out a bit more through my contacts.

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    3. To confirm, there is no public access to the chalk pit and there never has been legally.

      The Wildlife Trusts had that gate put in along FP1 for their volunteer ranger but the intent was to manage the ecology and habitats, using some money they got from the developer, not to create a public park. The finance was only for 5 years and ran out in 2017. The gate was subsequently stolen leaving a gap.


      There are no public rights of way across the quarry, or along the northern edge; there are only FP 1 and FP 31.

      FP 1 leads from opposite French's Avenue into a road called Alabaster Way which is in the Bovis Homes development.

      All the other roads in the development are privately owned and privately managed and the whole estate is unadopted by the Central Bedfordshire Council.

      There is only legal vehicle access via Lake View for residents and statutory bodies like the police and NHS. Alabaster Way, through to the main road at its NE end, has public footpath rights, as it is a continuation of FP 1.

      To see where FP 1 and FP 31 are consult this CBC map, best using a PC:
      1. go to http://my.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/mycentralbeds.aspx
      2. lookup LU5 5GJ
      3. Select 'Rights of Way' in the left hand column.
      4. You may have to zoom out a little to see the actual rights of way in a red colour.

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    4. Thank you for making the effort and supplying this information so promptly. Much obliged.

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