Bidwell West Residents Object to Overdevelopment of Employment Site at Thorn Road

  • Residents of a new housing estate at Thorn Road, Houghton Regis, are upset by proposals to build new warehouses next to their homes that are beyond what their expectations were within the outline planning consent for Bidwell West.
CGI image of the proposed development. More images here.

Although outline permission for an employment site was granted along with all other outline plans for Bidwell West, the Planning Department of Central Bedfordshire Council explained to HRND editor that, “The application exceeds the employment land limit within the outline application by approximately 900 sqm. As such, it is a separate, full, application.”

In verbal comments to the Houghton Regis Town Council Planning Committee, tonight, the residents mentioned their concerns as: Heights of buildings (causing shadow), size of buildings, close proximity to residents homes, more movement of traffic than originally proposed in outline plans, proximity of a school, and 24 hours working applied for. 

Residents also expressed concerns that Amazon had planning permission opposite, and a large warehouse at the end of Thorn Road was unoccupied since it was constructed a few years ago. They also made it clear that they weren't objecting to an employment site being there, just that it was not what was envisaged in the outline plans.

Councillors at Houghton Regis Town Council, tonight, backed the residents with a string of their own objections. 

The residents have kindly shared their own objection letter, sent earlier to CBC Planning Department, with Houghton Regis News Desk:

14th April, 2021
Residents response to planning application CB/21/01242/FULL

“To whom it may concern,

We are writing in regard to the planning application CB/21/01242/FULL for the employment
land north of Thorn Road, Houghton Regis.

As residents of the Ashberry site on the Bidwell West/ HRN2 development, we have a particular interest in this planning application, and a number of significant concerns regarding it. We acknowledge the outline planning permission on this site since November 2015 for use classes B1 (Egiii), B2 and B8. However, in all illustrative site plans (including various masterplans), conversations with house builders, and even Central Bedfordshire Council, we had been given the impression that the employment land would be a business centre and offices. We appreciate since outline planning permission was granted there has been a societal shift with working arrangements and retail habits, and that on paper the new planning application use classes have not changed. However, we ask that you keep in mind how different the proposal for 4 sheds comprising six units is from our initial expectations as shown in the masterplan.

Regarding the planning application itself, these are our concerns.
1. The scheme lacks any architectural merit which is a significant compromise on the aspirations set out in the framework plan for Bidwell West. The framework document produced by Central Bedfordshire Council as early as October 2012 talks of, “taking the best design cues from the area and designing a place that has character...”. This proposal is for ordinary sheds that echo other schemes the developer has undertaken all across the UK and can in no way satisfy that design aspiration. Should the permission be granted then there should be a significant rethink to how the buildings might reflect the local character far better, and add to the sense of arrival as the gateway of our development.

2. As set out in 3.6 of the applicant’s planning statement, the proposal is for 24 hours use. Even with the claimed site design and noise reduction measures, it is unthinkable that such permission might be granted so close to a residential development. There has been no consideration for light pollution from necessary flood lights on such a site for 24 hour use, and the idea that noise might be sufficiently contained is unrealistic. Should the permission be granted then there should be a condition limiting the hours of operation.

3. As set out in 3.4 of the applicant’s planning statement, the proposed buildings cover approximately 45% of the site. This is a significant overdevelopment for a project of this kind, and is clearly seen in the proposed site plan both in placement of the units, minimal manoeuvring space for vehicles in particular HGVs, and insufficient landscaping. In particular unit 3’s placement on the site to the extremity of the boundary to the west and east, and unit 2’s placement on the site to the extremity of the boundary to the east and south shows how overdeveloped this proposal is. Should the permission be granted then there should be a reduction in the development percentage of the site.

4. As set out in 7.9 of the applicant’s planning statement, the proposed development has a varying maximum height of between 12.90m and 13.45m. However, building heights approved under the outline consent sets out that the Bidwell West employment development should be no higher than 13m. The idea that three of these units will be over that, and unit 3 which is closest to the residential development is the highest of them all, shows no consideration for impact on light and overshadowing on neighbouring properties. It seems misleading that on the illustrative cross sections of the employment land in the design code, lower buildings were used for comparison to the neighbouring
residential properties. Should the permission be granted then there should be a lowering of the shed heights and better locating on the site to remove overshadowing issues.

5. As set out in 3.17 and 3.18 of the applicant’s planning statement, there is hard and soft landscaping proposed as part of the development. Due to overdevelopment of the site the proposed landscaping is woefully insignificant and insulting. The design code for Bidwell West talks of the employment site being a gateway to the development creating a sense of arrival; the proposed landscaping does not create this. The design code also references an enhanced eco corridor by planting on cross section 2 of the employment area. There is no obvious inclusion of this in the application and the mentioned rain garden and wildlife pond is minimal. The proposed landscaping raises concerns over the rainwater run off from the site as limited soft landscaping means that, unless the surfaces are specially designed, the rainwater has nowhere to go other than the drains. Should the permission be granted then there should be a significant increase to landscaping on the site, the retainment of an enhanced eco corridor, and in particular substantial landscaping to the boundary of the site.

6. We recognise that there will be thorough reports submitted in regard to emissions for air pollution, transport etc, however we want to ensure that these are not done in isolation, and factor in the other two distribution sheds to the south of the site which in affect enclose the Ashberry development on two sides.

We believe that planning permission should only be considered when these concerns have been adequately addressed in consultation with local residents. We look forward to the opportunity of discussing this further, and for our voice to be heard during the planning consultation process.”

Yours Sincerely ... 
The letter is signed by 49 residents of  Ashberry at Camilla Grove, Colosseum Drive, Decima Gardens and Terra Croft, and by 8 residents at Pantheon Drive,  Claudia Gardens, and  Alban Corner.