£1m housing-linked agreement to maintain Bedford giant airship shed is rubber stamped by planners
Developers of nearly 600 new homes already approved for Shortstown have agreed to hand over £1 million to maintain historic airship Shed One at Cardington.
Bedford Borough Council planners agreed in January to allow 592 homes to be built off The Highway.
But before final permission could be signed, sealed and delivered, the planning committee tasked the council’s officers to hammer out a deal with developers Gallager and Bellway Homes to fund the future maintenance of the historic shed.
Councillors were keen to avoid future residents of the housing having to pay a roof tax for the upkeep of the shed.
Council planner Greg Logan reported to Monday’s meeting of the planning committee that those negotiations have led to an offer of £1 million. Officers advised elected councillors to accept it.
The money will go into an independent trust fund account controlled by the council to pay for maintenance.
Members of the committee queried whether £1 million would be enough to avoid the need for more in the future.
They were told that Shed One has been repaired so the only task for the money is to maintain it. Shed Two is owned by Cardington Studios and is not a part of the agreement.
According to Bedford Council, Shed One was built for the Admiralty between 1916 and 1917 and is the only European airship shed to survive in-situ from the period up to 1918.
It was enlarged between 1926-27 to accommodate the larger R100 and R101 airships. The adjacent Shed Two was also built at this time.
Airship sheds pre-dating the late 1930s are considered to be very rare in Europe, with the only other example being in Cherbourg in France.
Shortstown parish councillor Jonathan Pelham was keen to point out that the village had opposed the entire development in the first place.
But he was told that the committee could not overturn a decision it had made at its meeting in January.
The only task of the planning committee this week was to decide whether to support the agreement or not.
The meeting heard that the developers were ready to start on the new homes and that £1 million was sufficient.
But Cllr Jim Weir (Cons, Kempston Rural), who has experience in working on such matters, queried whether any maintenance plan had been proposed, whether it was “robust” and if £1m is enough.
“I am concerned that if in five or 10 years time it will need more than £1m, I hope it won’t ever come back on residents,” he said.
He was told this would not happen.
Mr Logan said he had not taken part in the negotiations himself but has been assured that because the £1m will be held in trust that it will be “enough”.
He said he has been assured on this by management.
The committee approved the agreement.