CBC Committed to Building on Half of Windsor Drive Open Space

A petition was presented to Central Bedfordshire Council (CBC) today, 8th June 2021.  Joanne Anderson of Friends of Windsor Drive Community Open Space presented the petition and also sent a Power Point presentation to members of the Executive Committee at CBC the day before the meeting. 

We the undersigned petition the council to review the potential future housing development on green open space in Houghton Regis at Windsor Drive.
The proposed development we have been advised about is to put 100 new houses plus open space improvements on an open field used by local residents for exercise, dog walking and recreation. It is used by local footballers and rounders teams in the summer but also for walks by a large number of the local population of Houghton Regis.

There is already thousands of houses being built in Houghton Regis with the new Linmere Development on top of what has already been recently built. This space is more important than ever to keep for recreation for local residents given the additional burden and subsequent mental health issues people are experiencing due to COVID-19. It’s critical that we maintain green space such as this.

For years we campaigned to move traffic away from Windsor Drive for the safety of local residents due to volume of traffic and pollution. With the opening of the Woodside link, we improved the huge traffic flow through such a small area. To add another 100 houses in such a small area would impact greatly on the surrounding area.

This will impact on all surrounding roads and residents so Windsor Drive, Tennyson Avenue, Halleys Way, Longbrooke predominately but also Bloomsbury Gardens and all roads around the Lowry Drive area and Tudor Drive Area.

This ePetition ran from 04/03/2021 to 24/05/2021 and has now finished. 
554 people signed this ePetition.

During the 3 minute presentation of the petition mention was made of a green route through Houghton Regis from east to west, and reliance by local people on the Windsor Drive space. It was explained that over 1500 people had signed a petition on Change.org but CBC had requested that people use their own website to create a petition. It was explained in the presentation that many people had had difficulty signing the CBC petition.

The whole meeting is available here.

Cllr Eugene Ghent on behalf of CBC's Executive responded to the petition. He explained that their technical people had tried to emulate problems on signing a CBC petition but had not found a problem.
Cllr Ghent said that the proposals were just that, proposals, at this stage. But the councillor also stuck to the Council's line that they were “committed to building on no more than half the land”. Mention was made to making better use of the space such as providing car parking to support recreational use, and planting trees. He also mentioned that the Council would not make any decisions without consulting with local councillors and would engage with the local community but they were not at that stage yet. He also said that there would be opportunity through formal planning consultation for residents to comment. He said that Tony Keaveny, assistant Housing Director, would be wiling to attend meetings with the 'Friends' group. Read in full, CBC's response.

Special Pages have been created by Central Bedfordshire Council on their website to address Windsor Drive. Below are the words on those Pages as of 8 June 2021:

Page 1 states:
“About our proposed development in Windsor Drive, Houghton Regis
Windsor Drive is a proposed development of up to 100 affordable homes for rent and shared ownership, with a substantial amount of open space retained and enhanced to benefit local people. These homes will be available mainly for local people from Houghton Regis and Dunstable. Our approach to designing the homes and the retained open space will begin with a community engagement event later this year. This will give local people the opportunity to say how best the land should be developed and to suggest other things that could be included in the development, such as a shop.

“The land area is 6.05 hectares. We can assure local residents that not more than half of this area will be developed for housing; and it is not being sold to a developer or anyone else. Importantly, no more than 100 dwellings will be developed.

Page 2 states:
“More information about our Windsor Drive development
Why is this development being proposed?
There is a great need for affordable homes locally. The land is not as well used by the public as it could be and can be enhanced to enable more people to enjoy the open space that is there, and to potentially create an attractive woodland walk to rear of the land. A more compact open space could be retained as a field, or planted with trees and shrubs, or landscaped to look more attractive. Some parking can be integrated within the design to give people easier access to the grass.

Is Houghton Regis Town Council involved in bringing forward this proposal?
No, this is our project. Houghton Regis Town Council will be consulted with along with other organisations and local residents.

What are the timescales?
This proposal is just at the starting line. A planning application is necessary and that will not happen this year. Due to the anticipated consultation and master-planning exercise, start on site is not anticipated until 2023, and this depends on whether planning permission is granted. A planning application is likely during 2022. We will take our time to bring forward this proposal, so that we can listen to people’s ideas and suggestions along the way. Our intention is a high quality, sustainable development.

Has a decision already been made that the development is going to happen?
We've approved a budget of £20.6 million for this development. No other decisions have been made about the proposed design or how much of the land will be developed, or how the remaining land will be used to benefit local people. Planning permission will be required.

Will the Houghton Regis Neighbourhood Plan prevent this from happening?
The neighbourhood plan is not yet adopted, but is likely to be adopted this year, subject to consultation in spring 2021 and a local referendum. We will give weight to an adopted neighbourhood plan when a planning application is made for development of this land.

Can local people influence the proposal? If so, in what ways?
We plan to run a community engagement event similar to the one held for All Saints View, which took place over three intensive days, and offered residents an opportunity to comment and contribute. This will be the main opportunity for local people to influence the Windsor Drive proposal at an early stage. People can share their ideas on how the land can be developed to benefit the community, alongside the council-managed affordable homes and the enhancement of the open space.

What is the planning status of this land?
Windsor Drive is not designated as Green Belt land. However, the land is widely recognised as open space locally and we will consider this land to be a local amenity benefit. That in itself offers some protection to the land, which may be enhanced later in the year if the Houghton Regis Neighbourhood Plan is adopted.

Page 3 states;
Get involved in shaping our Windsor Drive proposals
We plan to run a community engagement event similar to the one held for All Saints View, which took place over three intensive days, and offered residents an opportunity to comment and contribute. This will be the main opportunity for local people to influence the Windsor Drive proposal at an early stage. People can share their ideas on how the land can be developed to benefit the community, alongside the affordable homes we manage and the enhancement of the open space.

You can have your say on the Houghton Regis Neighbourhood Plan through a consultation process and eventually a referendum. The Windsor Drive land is identified in that plan and people can comment through that consultation process, which is scheduled for spring 2021.

Prior to a planning application (during 2022), there will be an informal consultation on the detail of the proposals, where we will share designs and answer questions that people have.

Once the planning application is submitted, there will be consultation with local residents that is within the formal, well-established planning process.

If you have any questions, or want to be involved in shaping the proposal, please email windsordrivedevelopment@centralbedfordshire.gov.uk

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