Lack of through route joining both halves of Wixams means children unable to walk to school

Parents are having to drive up to seven miles to take their children to school

Friday, 5th November 2021, 3:24 pm
Updated Friday, 5th November 2021, 3:26 pm
Children in Wixams can't walk to school

There is no through route to join both halves of Wixams, meaning some children can’t walk to school, a meeting heard.

Councillor Graeme Coombes (Conservative, Wilshamstead Ward, Bedford Borough) told the recent Wixams Joint Development Control Committee (Tuesday, November 2) that he had concerns with the planning application being discussed.

This was a reserved matters application for 500 dwellings within Village 2 of Wixams. The site crosses the boundary between Central Bedfordshire and Bedford Borough Councils.

Councillor Coombes said: “As the Ward Member for Wixams, I’ve got some concerns with this particular application. In principle, I have no objections to 500 houses on this plot of land. Wixams is a housing development, we should, as members, be expecting this kind of application to come forward.

“My concern is the traffic issue. For the past couple of years the traffic has built and built as the Wixams Academy and Wixam Tree Primary School have grown.

“More and more cars are coming into Wixams. Many of those are residents that live on the Central Beds side of Wixams, but they can’t actually allow their children to walk to school in Wixams Academy, because there is no through route, there is no drive through route and there is no pedestrian route to join both halves of Wixams

“As a consequence, parents are having to drive either round through Houghton Conquest to get to Wixams or up past Elstow Interchange.

“It’s probably about a five, six, or seven-mile journey to take your child to school, just because there is no through route.”

Councillor Coombes told the meeting that the masterbuilder, L&Q, had promised just before term time in 2019 that they would open the route.

“Here we are two years later, and the schools have grown, the traffic has got worse, and that through route is not open,” he said.

“If there is no way of opening the through route in Wixams it will mean yet more traffic chaos along Green Lane, outside the schools. It will put the lives of children in danger, and it will lead to more acrimony and it will harm the lives of residents of Wixams who can’t actually get out of their driveways in the morning because everybody is driving to the Academy.

“I would like to put a condition on this application that says that it won’t go ahead until the road issue is resolved.

“But I’m told by officers that’s not possible and I accept their reasoning because the roads are being built by L&Q, and this is a Barrett [Homes] application, but I have real difficulty supporting this application unless the traffic issue is resolved.”

Debbie Quinn, senior planning officer at Central Bedfordshire Council, said: “Even if it was lawful to put a phasing condition on [an application], we couldn’t put one on that says you can’t building houses until this [route] is open. Because they can’t open it until they’ve built the houses so that it’s a safe place and not an active building site.

“We’ve worked with both L&Q and Barrett, and explained to them in great detail over and over again all the problems that this causing.”

Ms Quinn added that Barrett Homes has given assurances that a route through the park will be opened in the Spring, weather dependant.

In an email following the meeting, Ian Hardwick, managing director of L&Q Estates, said: “We have delivered a significant length of the footpath connection from Village 4 to Wixams Academy. The missing section passes through Barratt Homes’ construction site and L&Q Estates’ construction works which are associated with the Town Park and Greenway landscaping.

“We aren’t yet able to provide this “missing link” route for health and safety reasons, as it wouldn’t yet be safe for pedestrians to mix in with the extensive construction activity in the area.

“As soon as it is safe to do so the missing link will be provided. Our best estimate for this is early summer 2022.

“We have had extensive discussions with residents about this issue and are working with the councils as they investigate alternative ways to safely transport children to and from school.”

The committee voted to approve the application.