Houghton Regis campaigners say they will 'not stop fighting' any proposals for housing at Windsor Drive

Council says it is at the 'very early' stages of assessing whether the site could be used for affordable homes

Wednesday, 24th November 2021, 2:20 pm
Updated Wednesday, 24th November 2021, 2:23 pm

A community campaign group says it is delighted that a crowd of more than 200 people turned up to make their objections known about the potential for housing on a green space in Houghton Regis.

The Friends of Windsor Drive were delighted by the attendance as they said the listening event on November 13 - organised by Central Bedfordshire Council - had been poorly publicised.

The council says it is at the "very early" stages of assessing whether the site in Windsor Drive could be used for affordable housing and insists it is keen to gather local opinion.

The banner that makes residents' wishes clear

However on the day, residents were up in arms 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.

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.

"Mrs Kathleen Gilmore, who's 79, told him: 'I have nowhere else to walk my dogs. There are too many people on Houghton Park and I need this space.

"Residents are now worried that the results of the event will be twisted to support the build, which we absolutely do not."

Friends of Windsor Drive after the listening event

She added: "CBC were left in no doubt that local people do not want any residential development on Windsor Drive. We were also incensed that the council paid for a consultant to organise the event.

"It quickly became apparent that this was very much about leading residents towards giving CBC what they needed to push ahead with the bill.

"There was no option to disagree but thankfully the message coming from residents was overwhelming - leave our green spaces alone."

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

Residents and their dogs gather on the site

The 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."

Getting the message across

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.”