Residents of Wixams have said they feel like they are being ‘deliberately ignored’ by Bedford Borough Council’s planning department and claim their objections have not been listened to.
The issues for members of the Wixams Community Group are based around objections to the plans for three large units known as ‘G-Park’.
“Wixams was originally perceived as an idyllic, sustainable place to live but is becoming a nightmare for some as it will soon be home to the largest logistics park in the Borough,” said a statement from Wixams Community Group.
“Towering warehouses will dominate the skyline instead of the modern, green and self- sufficient environment promised when residents first bought their new-build homes.”
The community group say outline planning consent for the development was granted by the Borough Planning Committee on 28 October 2019 for three 18 metre (60 ft) tall distribution units with a total floorspace exceeding 50,000 m2.
The ‘reserved matters’ application for the site was first submitted for public consultation in January 2020 and has now received around 160 objections from nearby residents, relatibng to noise, pollution, scale of units and proximity to residential areas.
“At 18 metres tall and situated around 80 metres from residential areas, the units will tower over some houses, block the current views across the Marston Vale and for some residents the closest unit will even reduce their hours of sunlight,” said the community group’s statement.
According to the residents’ group, objections to the application have also been raised by the environmental health team at Bedford Borough Council.
The team identified that the increased noise from the heavy vehicles will disrupt the lives of residents nearest to the site and adequate mitigations have not been put in place, which lead to the application being rejected this September for a second time.
This is refuted by Bedford Borough Council, who said, “The Council’s Environmental Health Officer has raised no objection to the latest amendments made to the scheme.”
The Wixams Community Group statement says, “Borough planners, headed by Mr Jon Shortland, Chief Officer of Planning & Infrastructure Development, subsequently met with the agent representing the developers Gazely and proposed they move the service depot for one unit by shifting the building even closer to residential areas.
“In taking this action to help the developers get the application approved, the planners have shown a clear disregard for the overwhelming objection to this development from the Wixams community.
“In the original application from May 2019 the plans showed the closest unit would have been only 120 metres away from the nearest home, in the most recent scheme put forward since the meeting with the Borough planners, this unit is now little over 80 metres away.”
At a recent borough council meeting the Liberal Democrats won unanimous council backing in their objection to the Government’s proposed changes to the planning system.
Cllr Dean Croft highlighted that the proposals “would exclude local people from decisions on the future of their communities.”
This was echoed by the planning committee Chair Cllr Jon Abbott, “I am also very concerned about proposals to effectively silence local communities.”
“These views appear to be in direct conflict with the actions of the Borough when residents do engage with the planning process,” said Mr Staszak.
“The community have put their objections forward to the planning department but their views are being deliberately ignored.
“We’d like to know why Bedford Borough Council representatives are actively working against the wishes of the public they are supposed to be working on behalf of.”
“I find the views of the Bedford Lib Dems to be hypocritical in respect of the Wixams development,” said Wixams resident Debbie Baker.
“We have not been listened to, involved or communicated with. Any concerns we do have, we receive no response.”
Some residents nearby appear to have reluctantly accepted that this development will go ahead but would prefer there to be much more space between these colossal units and their homes. “These units are far too close to residential homes,” said local resident Mary.
“It will look almost like an industrial village and a terrible sight. They need to look at pushing these units further back.”
A Borough Council spokesperson said, “The development in question has already been approved at the ‘outline’ stage so the principle of the development itself has already been agreed.
“The Council is currently considering the detailed or ‘reserved matters’ application with a decision due to be made by the 27 November 2020.
“In doing this, the Council has a legal obligation as stated in the National Planning Policy Framework to ‘work proactively with applicants’ and ‘approach decisions on proposed development in a positive and creative way’.
“A number of amendments have been made to the scheme during the application process, with public consultation undertaken at each stage in accordance with the Council’s Statement of Community Involvement.
“This has included letters to adjacent residents and Wixams Parish Council, public notices displayed around the perimeter of the site and a press notice.
“The Council has responded to numerous queries from the Chair of the Wixams Community Group during the planning process. The Council’s Environmental Health Officer has raised no objection to the latest amendments made to the scheme. ”
The Wixams Community Group are calling on the Borough planners to again reject this application and for the developers Gazely to ‘show some compassion for the people who live near to the site’.
The group hope that they will be prepared to submit another application which creates a large buffer zone between the proposed warehouses and residential areas.