Bedford Borough Council has responded to questions over this year’s Winter Wonderland event in Bedford Park after residents said they had not been consulted until after the construction had begun.
Previously, the event took place at Everard Meadow on Longholme Way, the traditional location for funfairs visiting Bedford.
Explaining why the location had changed, a statement from Bedford Borough Council said: “Unfortunately, due to planned works by the Environment Agency on the Lock in Mill Meadows, the event was compelled to find an alternative location for this year’s celebration.
“The Environment Agency had planned to create a compound on the site for equipment, however, this has since been delayed.
“Regrettably, it is apparent that the local company overseeing the event did not submit a timely planning application for the new venue.
“Despite this, as the Planning Authority, the Council is obligated to evaluate the retrospective application and make a decision after the consultation period.”
The council said that public and technical consultations on the planning application are currently underway and will continue until Friday, 8 December, two weeks after the event officially opens on Saturday 25 November.
A decision will be made after that date on whether to grant or refuse the planning application.
A local whose house overlooks Bedford Park told the Bedford Independent that residents feel as if they’ve been “backed into a corner”.
“To see it part constructed and then get the consultation letter was laughable,” he said.
“It’s very slack from the local authority and I am concerned that it will set a precedent for next year’s event. The council don’t explicitly say that this is a temporary location and that Winter Wonderland will return south of the river next year.”
He said that taking into account the construction, duration of the event, dismantling and recovery of the parkland, it will disable that part of the park for around three months.
Bedford Borough Council says it is actively monitoring the impact of the event and is “taking steps to address any potential adverse effects”.
It assured residents that efforts will be made to restore the park to its former state after the conclusion of the event, including addressing any potential impact of vehicles, rides and footfall, to maintain the park’s grassed areas.
Councillor Andrea Spice, portfolio holder for town centres and planning, said: “As a Council, we want our residents to be able to enjoy this year’s Winter Wonderland as they have at previous events at Everald Meadow.
“We are disappointed that the correct timeframes for seeking planning permission were not complied with by the event organisers, but we will ensure that all of the usual processes are followed in determining the application that has now been made.
Further to this, the grassed areas of the park will be returned to their former glory following the event.”
Among the attractions at Winter Wonderland is a real ice rink, something that has been able to be added thanks to the more spacious location.
Visitors planning to travel to the event by car are being directed to use the Queens Street Multi-Storey Car Park.
The Council’s statement concluded: “Bedford Borough Council appreciates the community’s understanding during this period and assures residents that every effort will be made to make this Winter Wonderland a magical and memorable experience for all.”
You can find out more details about the event at the website winterwonderlandbedford.co.uk/.