Report highlights lack of trust in council as residents continue fight to save Houghton Regis green space

Locals believe council will go ahead with housing regardless of any objections

Wednesday, 12th January 2022, 2:59 pm

Residents taking part in a 'listening' event over controversial plans for Windsor Drive in Houghton Regis, have overwhelmingly backed keeping the area clear of housing.

A report about the event, held on November 13 states: "Windsor Drive is important to the community intergenerationally, with important life moments taking place there. There is a great deal of love and appreciation for the place, particularly after coronavirus and the close access to green space it provided. At least one person cited the reason for buying their house was the proximity to this green space."

More than 200 people attended the session, led by the Friends of Windsor Drive, who are opposed to suggestions for social housing on the green space.

Residents attending the Windsor Drive Listening event in November

And the event was marred after the council's head of housing property, James Yeomans, allegedly told them he could organise planning permission the next day, if he wanted, for 100 new homes on the last green space in Houghton Regis.

Then, campaign spokesperson Jo Anderson said: "Unfortunately Mr Yeomans shot himself in the foot with his remarks. He met with massive opposition from around 60 residents and several dogs. Some were very angry and emotions were running high."

The recently released report reflected the residents' anger stating: "What also became clear during the listening exercise was the lack of trust attendees had in the council, and the belief that the council will go ahead with plans despite any objections raised."

The report said: "The most common feedback was to develop nature and recreation on Windsor Drive. Where recreational development was called for, this commonly fell into one of four categories, seating, paths, accessibility and exercise/activity. Common themes around developing nature include: rewilding, planting trees, managing and rejuvenating the brook, wildlife habitat improvement, wildflower sewing, wildlife signage.

"The most frequently described activities were walking (36) and dog walking (19), followed by jogging (9) and taking children to play (9).Windsor Drive’s daytime use is over three times higher than evening and night use which may be partly explained by the lack of lighting. The most popular time to use Windsor Drive is in the afternoon."

The listening event took place at Houghton Hall Park Visitors Centre, with a later site visit.

But the Windsor Drive group claims CBC are past masters at holding so-called 'listening events' then going ahead anyway.

Ms Anderson cited the case of All Saints View: "This is now a multi-storey department store type carbuncle opposite a 14th Century church - not what the residents wanted at all.

"Given the recent COP26 outcome around preserving open space and Boris Johnson saying houses should not be built on green fields, we wonder why CBC is planning to waste more money on listening events when they very clearly haven't heard what's been said to date, including a 600 signature petition against the build and a further 1,600 plus petition about to be submitted.

"Whatever creative summary the consultants come up with, one thing's for sure - the residents of Houghton Regis will not stop fighting the proposals to build on Windsor Drive green open space."

After the event Cllr Eugene Ghent, Executive member for Housing & Assets, said: “We are exploring whether we could develop much-needed affordable housing on some of the land at Windsor Drive, while improving the remaining open space for community use. We are still at a very early stage and we really want the public to get involved in the process and we have committed to listening to the views of local people before taking the idea any further. The event on Saturday 13th was the first opportunity to hear from residents, and there will be further opportunities in the future.

“The comment made by our Head of Housing Property Housing Services on the day referred to the fact that, while the council could put in a planning application, it is our preference to listen to residents through events like these and work with them as we explore the idea.

“I would like to encourage anyone who wants to stay up to date with how the ideas develop and opportunities to discuss this with us to sign up for our email bulletins at www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/windsor-drive.”

The report will now be used as part of any formal planning process on the site.