Letters: Concerns new evangelical church could increase flooding in Kempston

Artist's impression of Grace Community Hub in Kempston. Image: Grace Community Church
Artist's impression of Grace Community Hub in Kempston. Image: Grace Community Church

Dear editor,

A planning application has been submitted by Grace Church, an evangelical church which currently meets in Kempston’s Addison Centre, to build a large complex on a field next to the River Great Ouse which is designated as a ‘level 2’ floodplain.

Read: Selfish parking is endangering school children

This proposed complex would consist of a 600-seat auditorium, office space and a car park for 205 cars, as well as 79 houses. 

The sale of the houses is estimated to raise about £1.5 million, but the cost of the church complex build is estimated to be around £7 million according to the planning application. It is unclear how the church would fund the shortfall.

Kempston has suffered three separate flood events since Christmas, and any building on the floodplain would exacerbate this. Residents of Church Walk and Water Lane were trapped in their homes by flood water and some were unable to get to work.

All the recent building in the area has made the flooding more severe by constraining the existing floodplain. Residents fear that this proposed scheme will make flooding even worse, to the detriment of the existing homes.

The photo below shows the reality of living with this threat.

Church Walk:Water Lane Kempston flooding Image: Lorna Ogle
Church Walk/Water Lane Kempston flooding Image: Lorna Ogle

Within a three-mile radius of this proposed development are 15 halls and six local schools with facilities which are available for hire by the public.

The proposed complex would effectively suck the life out of these facilities, especially Kempston Hammers Sports and Social Club, a fully inclusive, secular not-for-profit organisation, open to all members of the community situated next door to the development.

If the church chooses to undercut the cost of hire, which it would have to do, the club would not be able to support its sports sections. These are adult and children’s cricket, bowling, football, rugby and tug of war, as well as skittles, darts and pool.

Hammers currently field multiple teams in all of those sports, but if the club were forced to fold, all the sports facilities would be lost.

Kempston has lost many of its sports fields over the last 50 years, and if this one went, there would be nothing left. This is much more important to the community than a large church complex.

As well as being a ‘level 2’ flood plain, the fields in question are also one of the few remaining green spaces in this part of Kempston. There is no public transport to the site on a Sunday, and hosts a large variety of wildlife, both plant and animal. 

The church’s own survey revealed a rich biodiversity which would be lost if the fields were built on. A complex of this size would have a massive impact on traffic in the area of new housing.

They will have to put up with increased traffic as the proposed community has been surrounded by a trunk road and the huge amount entrances to the church complex and new housing will all be on Cemetery Road. 

The car park seems insufficient for the size of the complex and so the surrounding residential areas will be subject to on-street parking when the church complex is being used.

Lorna Orgle
Church Walk,

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