Massive redevelopment plan approved for Aspects Leisure Park in Bedford

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Artist's impression of the development

Owners of a “tired” leisure park near Bedford town centre have been given the green light to redevelop the site and build four blocks of flats that will be taller than the Cineworld cinema.

Councillors heard from residents of the nearby Riverfield area who are worried that the increase in traffic from the 128 flats and new businesses at Aspects Leisure Park will disrupt their lives and damage the roads.

And a councillor also spoke out in objection to plans for two new drive-thru restaurants in addition to the MacDonald’s that is already there. She fears it could add to litter and levels of obesity.

Alan Bates, the chairman of Riverfield Residents Association, said, “It will create more traffic using Riverfield Drive.  The road is already breaking up.”

But Bedford Council’s planning committee heard at its online meeting on Monday (July 20) that traffic experts expect that the roads will be able to cope with more than 100 added trips on the average weekday.

Cllr Lucy Bywater (Green, Castle), while welcoming the redevelopment, objected to having a proliferation of three drive-thru restaurants on the same site, which has been dubbed Newnham Park.

Cllr Lucy Bywater
Cllr Lucy Bywater (Green Party)

“The food is high in fat, salt and sugar without needing people to even walk to the tills,” she said.

And she objected to litter, which is both dropped in the leisure park, and in the town.

Two Newnham Lib Dems, Cllr Hilde Hendrickx, and Cllr Jake Sampson also welcomed parts of the plan but had concerns.

Cllr Hendrickx said, “It is run down, tired and in need of a new lease of life, and we are also in need of housing.”

But Cllr Hendrickx foresees traffic congestion problems, while Cllr Sampson predicted “an explosion of takeaway packaging”.

He also wants a new bus stop at the site and more affordable housing.

One of the 18 metre tall blocks will be set aside for housing association tenants.

One of the businesses at the site, Club 2000 Bingo, has also objected to a proposed reduction in the number of parking spaces.

They are in dispute with site owner Jupiter Tradeco over a reduction from 678 to 494 parking spaces. The flats would have 158 spaces for residents.

But the meeting was told that a lease dispute between a business and its landlord is not a matter for the planning committee.

The meeting was also told that the site is of national significance for its archaeology being a scheduled monument containing Newnham Priory and a Tudor Mansion House.

The applicant’s agent told the meeting that they have considered that in their application.

The meeting also heard that the 18-metre tall flats would be seven metres taller than the Cineworld cinema.

But planners believe they won’t cause visual harm to the area.

The plans also include bringing the overgrown bottle bank site, fronting Barkers Lane, into use. Part of it will become a landscaped park open to the public.

The committee of eight councillors voted by seven votes, and one abstention, to approve it.

By Local Democracy Reporter
David Tooley

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