‘Batts Ford bridge would be disaster’

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Plans to build a road bridge at Batts Ford in Bedford have been blasted by two former Bedfordshire County planning experts.

Alex Greene, a former assistant county surveyor, and Joe Street, a former assistant county planning officer and former HM Planning Inspector, have said a road bridge at Batts Ford would be “an environmental, economic and traffic disaster for the town.”

While accepting another river crossing is needed, they say it must be at the correct location, not at a point “which just seems to be a good idea”.

The two experts said: “Batts Ford was evaluated thoroughly in the 1960s and found not to be the correct location.

“Were Batts Ford bridge to be constructed, the town centre would be bisected by a busy main road leading to the bridge. The town has a relative compact centre and to bisect it would destroy it. The effects on the proposed Riverside North development would be catastrophic.

“The railway station and the new bus station would be separated by a busy road.”

Mr Street said the Batts Ford proposal should be abandoned. Mr Greene added the capacity of the existing town bridges is “more than adequate and it is not the cause of congestion, whereas the adjacent road network is.”

He said: “The predominant traffic movements are into the town centre in the morning peak and the reverse in the evening. This results in a number of junctions around the town centre causing gridlock at peak times.”

The pair have spent many years studying the problems Bedford faces and believe a plan drawn up in the 1970s for a Western Relief road would be a better solution.

They said: “Another river crossing is needed to relieve these problems but at a location to the west of Prebend Street would help solve town centre congestion.

“The proposal for a Western Relief road to the west of the town centre, which was abandoned in the 1970s for political reasons, after nearly 100 houses had been demolished for it, may offer some pointers as to what should be done now.

“It would also have made possible the pedestrianisation of the town centre from Prebend Street to St Cuthberts.”

They added traffic could have been restricted along the Embankment and regeneration of the Midland Road area and Queen’s Park would have been possible. The bus and railway stations could have been closely intergrated to form an ideal interchange, while a footbridge at Batts Ford “is worthy of consideration”.

Mr Greene, who later worked for the RAC as a highways, road safety and traffic engineer said: “Bedford could be one of the most attractive towns in the country. We have the river, and along with St Paul’s Square and the town centre, Bedford could be a gem.

“It is hoped after the elections our next representatives will consign Batts Ford bridge to the filing cabinet for another 60 years.”

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