I am Rod Wynne-Powell, and this is my way to pass on snippets either of a technical nature, or related to what I am currently doing or hope to be doing in the near future.

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Sunday, 8 December 2013

Chaulington – thus far

The various partners concerned with formulating the plan for the sale and redevelopment of the former Vauxhall Storage area at Chaul End, announced that on Friday and Saturday they were returning to the Community to show and discuss where they had reached, and what they had put together since the last gathering.

Sadly, I felt the community response was poor, and I felt that the appearance of apathy was not entirely to be blamed on the residents of the local villages and hamlets; I think that the small card that was distributed was poorly designed with no clear focus on what was to take place, and when I visited I made just that point. The map detailing the clearer idea of what was to be put forward needed to be the main feature and considerably larger – the invitation to visit had to catch and hold the recipient’s attention on the journey from letterbox to recycling bin. Timing was also poor; the competition from pre-Christmas shopping was always going to be a disincentive, especially after a week at work.

I visited on the Friday and read the content of the display boards overnight and on Saturday morning taking my notes along for a brief discussion just before closing on the Saturday afternoon. There were points I felt were not given prominence and some questions I had, that were not answered, and the response I got was that some were not items for that stage in the process, and this I am afraid I do not accept. Unless certain aspects are fully resolved at the start, their power to be implemented is diminished, if not completely lost when only introduced towards the end of proceedings. This area is severely disadvantaged currently due to past mistakes. It is essential that these are tackled head-on as prerequisites before the development is considered, before an even greater burden is heaved upon the surrounding communities.

The whole idea of developing this land with a large residential component has very few detractors and a lot of goodwill, because Bedfordshire needs more housing and the location has numerous benefits. The scheme has a power rarely seen in this context, and it is this power which needs to be wielded to remove some of the problems that currently exist and ensure a far better integration with less negative impact on the lives of those who live in the areas of Caddington, Slip End, Chaul End and Aley Green. It would seem that all to whom I spoke were already assuming that some issues were totally insurmountable and were not even going to be fought against; well that is not good enough!

Chaul End lane as a route, although it has issues (pun intended) at both ends, is a vital thoroughfare, and so to hear of only negative changes envisaged due to safety concerns was unacceptable – that route needs its solutions implementing prior to the added burden of the extra traffic from some three hundred more dwellings are added to the mix.

I also saw no ground rules set for the introduction of workshops and/or offices interspersed into the plan other than centrally in a so-called flexible unit; that shows no imagination as to how communities develop organically. A new community of the size envisaged needs places for work opportunities within walking distance with space for transient traffic for delivery/collection, there needs to be a level of self-sufficiency built in, especially to cope with the effects of being snowed in during winter. I asked the question of what the changes in micro climate might be expected by the change of use, and I was offered the answer that this would have been considered empirically by experts – I was distinctly worried by that response as the experts’ handiwork I have encountered in this locale over some thirty years leaves me underwhelmed to the point of despair.

Caddington and Slip End suffer from a completely misplaced Postcode, or rather as Julian Lyon pointed out: a bad misreading of postcodes by reading only the first part of the numbers. This needs addressing (pun intended again!) for the entire area including the new development, so that this is not perpetuated.

I saw no mention of stages of construction, and it seemed to me the work needs to be staged, to allow the community to grow at a pace that allows it to blend with the existing structures, so they can adapt. The construction phase will be the most disruptive to the existing community and the less this impacts negatively, the greater chances of successful overall integration.

There are rules in rural areas that make lighting paths difficult, but I suggested that it would be worthwhile taking a look at a lighted pathway from Sawston to Babraham in Cambridgeshire which is a very successful and much welcomed recent addition, that is used by cyclists, pram and buggy users as well as walkers.

In the past when discussing this project I have referred to this area of Bedfordshire as being:  “…a Museum of Crass Mistakes of Poor and Inadequate Planning…” I feel here is an opportunity to break out of that mould. To that end the ground rules must be laid down at the outset, they are well nigh impossible to be implemented further down the line. This project has value to all concerned and must be viewed in this light. Future generations need to be proud of what is done here, I just hope the opportunities are grasped.

As I have stated earlier, I may well be leaving the area, but I would like to think that I may be able to still offer constructive suggestions that make this area a good place to live.

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