Deputy PM’s garden city plan for Ampthill a ‘strange connection’ says town mayor

Ampthill town centre.
Ampthill town centre.

Plans to turn Ampthill into a garden city have been dubbed ‘unlikely’ by the town’s mayor.

In his conference speech, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg pledged to build three to five new garden cities along the proposed Oxford to Cambridge rail line.

Ampthill was listed along with Sandy, Leighton Buzzard, St Neots, Bicester and Great Cambourne.

But Ampthill Mayor Mike Blair said: “Ampthill is already a town so the plan to also have a garden city sounds incompatible. It is not on the East-West line, and I find it a most strange connection to make.”

He added: “We have already had fairly large-scale expansion with Ampthill Heights and Greensands Wood, and there will be more in next couple of years with Warren Farm, which has been granted permission for more than 400 homes.

“To me a garden city is an entirely new development, properly planned, in open countryside.”

Work has started on reinstating the former “varsity line” between Oxford and Bedford by upgrading the existing route via Bletchley.

The East West Rail Consortium, made of the local authorities along the route, including Central Bedfordshire Council and Bedford Borough Council, has yet to announce the Bedford to Cambridge section.

The consortium said “work is under way to re-establish definitive routes between Bedford, Sandy and Cambridge”, as parts of it were sold after it closed in the 1960s.

A spokesman said: “To develop the case to build the Bedford-to-Cambridge section we have to look at where it will bring the most benefit to the economy, and to existing and future housing.

“It is a work in progress, and the consortium is working towards having a full proposal to secure a funding committment for 2019.”

At the Liberal Democrat Conference on Monday Nick Clegg vowed his party would re-open the line and brand it the “Garden Cities Line” if in Government after the next election.

A Lib Dem spokesman said Bedford, which will have a station, has already given planning permission for 18,000 additional homes, and will serve as an example to other locations. He said: “We will offer them an express service stop on the line in exchange for increasing their housing stock significantly along Garden City Principles.”