'You don’t own your view' council tells Ampthill residents after trees felled

The view now the trees have been felled. Picture supplied by Cllr Steve AddyThe view now the trees have been felled. Picture supplied by Cllr Steve Addy
The view now the trees have been felled. Picture supplied by Cllr Steve Addy
Meeting held to update local councillors and residents on plans to remedy the situation

Ampthill residents left staring at an ugly industrial estate after hundreds of trees were felled by the A507 “don’t own” the view from their homes, a meeting heard.

Policies need changing to prevent a repeat of the events opposite the Ampthill Heights estate, a Central Bedfordshire Council overview and scrutiny committee meeting was warned.

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A meeting was held in the town last week to update local councillors and residents on plans to remedy the situation, despite a lack of specific funding.

Ampthill Heights Residents’ Association member and Ampthill town councillor Stephen Addy explained: “It was clear CBC representatives hadn’t even reviewed the mitigation requests made by both local residents’ associations and hadn’t even costed up their own such proposals.

“Highways would make the same decision again across Central Bedfordshire. The assistant director for highways was saying throughout there’s no budget for these mitigation works during the next 18 months, but he’ll find one.

“CBC representatives told the local community ‘you don’t own your view’. That was poorly timed and caused plenty of animosity among residents. This report is wholly inadequate and doesn’t answer the main points.

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Work still hasn’t been completed. Piles of debris remain the length of the A507. There’s still excessive dangerous standing water near to a young children’s play area.

“I hope CBC and its highways department stay committed to the mitigation plan and don’t let residents down any further.”

CBC’s deputy leader and Independent Biggleswade West councillor Hayley Whitaker replied: “It’s disappointing to hear those comments which don’t represent the views of everyone, as we had a positive meeting, last week.

“This report sets out the facts. I know that’s difficult to read. Those trees needed to be removed for the reasons given.

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“We didn’t necessarily acknowledge the impact this would have on residents. That’s what we’ve apologised for and I think that’s entirely appropriate.

“A time line was set out for the removal of the debris, the cutting up of the fences and the remedial works, with everyone in agreement.

“The reality is you don’t own your view unfortunately. But this council recognises the impact and is proposing the mitigation and the planned work.

“We’ve not got a pot of cash, but we’ll find the money. There’s a commitment to do those works. Trees can’t be planted now, so this will happen in the autumn.”

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Independent Houghton Regis East councillor Pat Hamill, who chairs the committee, read a statement from Ampthill Green Party councillor Susan Clinch.

“This isn’t the report the committee asked for. This report hasn’t focused on the communication and doesn’t explain why it was so inadequate, or why adjacent residents and businesses weren’t considered as stakeholders worthy of proper engagement.”

Independent Ampthill councillor Mark Smith warned: “Policies need to change to stop this happening again. The justification was to ensure the drainage isn’t undermining the road. We heard from residents the drainage isn’t working, so that needs resolving.

“Why were the internal drainage board and CBC’s own engineers not consulted about where water from the evacuated ditches would go?”