Controversial plans for housing in Houghton Regis put on hold - but not off the table
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Electioneering could explain a reprieve over a 100-home development being built on what residents consider “an irreplaceable community asset” in Houghton Regis, according to a campaign group.
Central Bedfordshire Council has been considering a green space at Windsor Drive as a potential site for an affordable housing scheme.
Soaring building costs have persuaded the local authority to delay the project for now, although it remains a future possibility once prices stabilise.
Jo Anderson, from the Friends of Windsor Drive, said: “This changes nothing. We’ve been fighting this for 18 months now to have this land handed over to the town and used for leisure.
“It seems like a political electioneering policy, under pressure from the independent councillors, and CBC will come back to this in a couple of years.
“The last thing the ruling group can afford is numerous disgruntled residents ahead of next May.
“We asked for details of surveys and investigations previously done in 2017 and were told this land wasn’t suitable.
“CBC wrote to us saying it isn’t going to build there following assessments and investigations. So there’s some inconsistency in the local authority’s stance.”
In a statement, CBC explained: “We won’t be progressing any further works on the proposed development of affordable housing at Windsor Drive in Houghton Regis at this time.
“The decision to pause this proposal has been made because the construction sector is exceptionally volatile currently and costs are rising rapidly.
“Instead, the council will proceed with the delivery of other affordable housing schemes which are further along in the design stage.”
Director of social care, health and housing Julie Ogley said: “While these cost pressures are having an adverse impact on all construction schemes, we think that by waiting two to three years we’ll be in a better position to revisit this site.
“The council will always endeavour to balance local concerns when exploring potential sites to better meet the demand for more affordable homes in the town.”
The Friends of Windsor Drive has said previously the combination of recreational and wildlife areas along the Brook/River Lea corridor “is irreplaceable and truly an asset of community value”.
The group remains “steadfast in our aim to resist any development” and has received support from Houghton Regis Town Council, which pressed CBC to show that all brownfield land in the area has been properly considered, such as the former Netto site.
The group added: “The decision to pause this proposal sounds great, although the reality is it’s just a pause.
“Eventually CBC will be back wanting to develop this open space, as it’s done several times during the past 25 years.
“We can certainly celebrate the decision to postpone and be proud of the energy and drive with which our 630-plus members have fought for our open space.
“We’ll continue campaigning until we receive a commitment for this to be leisure land in perpetuity, not built on or designated as an allocated site for development in the Local Plan.”