Four towering chimneys that are the sole remaining heritage of Stewartby brickworks could now be demolished to make way for 1,000 new homes.
The Grade II historically listed chimneys have for years been the only obstacle preventing owners Hanson from developing the massive site.
But now a public safety intervention on the structures has conveniently coincided with a housing proposal for the site as part of the borough’s need to build at least 19,000 new homes.
Last week the council served a notice to Hanson’s bosses stating the chimneys could pose a danger to the public in extreme weather conditions and ordering them to be “made safe”.
The action comes just months after Hanson’s agents made a formal submission to the council to build 1,000 homes, together with business units, on 37 hectares on the east and west of the site.
This submission, which comes after previous development bids were refused, may now form part of the Bedford Borough Council’s official Local Plan 2035.
It would virtually double the size of Stewartby.
A spokesman for Hanson told the T&C: “We agree the chimneys could pose a danger but they’re going to be virtually impossible to preserve. We’ve had engineers examine them thoroughly and there is no way we can make them safe unless we demolish them.
“To stop them from toppling in high winds we would have to take them apart completely to underpin them. Already over the decades there has been so many parts and bricks replaced that they are not really the original historic chimneys any more.”
Hanson bosses are already considering putting up some kind of monument, made from their famous London Bricks, to replace the chimneys.
Their spokesman added: “This is a prime brownfield development site... All we can say is that we hope common sense will prevail here.”
A council spokesman said: “The Brickworks site has been submitted as part of the Local Plan process. That is an ongoing process and will not be a factor in deciding the future of the chimneys. From a planning perspective, in principle the chimneys could be retained as landmark features on the site alongside the development.”
But she added: “The council takes the safety of the public very seriously.”
Mayor Dave Hodgson said: “The council has been extremely active and conscientious in carrying out its role in protecting the heritage of the listed chimneys. It continues to be so. However this action is simply unavoidable due to clear evidence in respect of public safety, which must of course come first.”
He said an application put in by the owners to demolish the chimneys will be presented to the council’s planning committee at the earliest opportunity.