Drowning risk in ditches near Ampthill playground after "shambolic" drainage scheme, warns councillor

More than 1,000 trees were removed
The A507 after the trees were removed (Picture: Malcolm Tattersall)The A507 after the trees were removed (Picture: Malcolm Tattersall)
The A507 after the trees were removed (Picture: Malcolm Tattersall)

A plastic safety fence is all that stands between a child drowning in deep water-filled ditches by the A507 at Ampthill, after nearby highways authority drainage works, a local councillor has warned.

Describing the mess left behind as “an absolute shambles”, town councillor Steve Addy has called on Central Bedfordshire Council to inspect the site.

“There’s never been any historic flooding or drainage issues on either of the two housing estates by the A507, until now,” he told CBC’s sustainable communities overview and scrutiny committee.

“All the ditches contain standing water and some are dug well beneath the pipework with no hope of it flowing away,” he said. “The drains beneath the road and along the A507 are clearly blocked and haven’t been addressed.

“Plastic safety fencing is still up near a children’s playground where there’s a real risk of drowning because of this excess water. There remains no acceptable mitigation plan.”

Green Party Ampthill councillor Susan Clinch explained: “Our request is for this committee to review the decision-making of CBC highways on this A507 stretch, which was stripped of trees and had large drainage ditches deeply excavated.

“I shouldn’t have residents at a town council meeting saying their mental health has been destroyed by CBC works. Highways tells us it needed to do the works and did everything right.

“The town council and ward councillors want someone else to look at this and confirm that or challenge it.”

Independent Sandy councillor and executive member for highways Simon Ford issued another apology for a lack of communication with the town council and CBC ward councillors before the work happened.

“We’ve agreed to meet town councillors, the residents’ association and ward councillors next month to discuss all the points being raised,” he said.

“An issue such as the safety fencing is something I can definitely raise at this point. I don’t believe an independent review of this particular project is the right way to move this forward.

“Liaising with the residents’ association and local councillors is key to learning lessons, but an independent review isn’t appropriate. My plan is to meet with (CBC’s assistant director highways) Gary Powell and you on April 17.

“The initial part we got wrong. The questions around why the work was done have been answered already by CBC’s tree experts and Gary Powell.”

Independent Ampthill councillor Mark Smith said: “It came as a complete shock to residents and ward councillors. We take on board the apology for a lack of communication.”

Conservative Dunstable West councillor Nigel Young said: “I’m struggling to understand what policy covers highways cutting down trees without talking to residents and understanding the damage it would do.

“Highways seem to be a law unto themselves. We should have been talking to members and residents before doing this work. We simply failed to do so. It’s a disgrace and a continuing one. I know you’ll want to clamp down on that.”

Councillors agreed a report should come back to the committee after next month’s summit meeting.