Stewartby brickworks eyed for council’s 20 year plan

Stewartby brickwork chimneys

Bedford Borough council is currently setting out the future of housing in the town, as part of Local Plan 2035. Including taking input from residents, and making plans for Bedford’s land mark brickworks.

This is the fourth stage of consultation for the process, with previous rounds focusing on the scope and options for the plan, as well as areas for sustainable growth.  This latest stage is focused on housing in the borough.

The Bedford strategic housing market assessment in 2015, conducted by the Opinion Research Services, on behalf of Bedford Borough council, looked at the need for housing going forward.

They estimated an increase of 826 households a year. When adjusted for migration, extra care housing, and market values they came up with an annual average of 884 additional houses a year, including 256 affordable houses.

Planning permission already allocated accounts for roughly half the 17,680 houses needed by 2035, leaving the council nearly 8,000 homes short over the next twenty years.

The council looks to meet this demand, not only to increase housing in the town, but create new settlements, that act as small, semi-independent communities.

One such site under consideration for a new settlement is the Stewartby Brickworks. A land mark in the Bedford landscape whose affects are still felt.

Once the largest brick producer in the world it was forced to close after failing to meet emission standards. The Italian workforce it attracted has meant Bedford has the highest concentration of Italian workers in the country, even decades after its opening.

Development of brown field sites, former industrial land, is a common tactic which allows the preservation of more expensive greenfield sites.

Though offering 52ha the Stewartby site comes with its own difficulties. Apart from the chemical contamination of the soil, there are the three large chimneys of the former industrial park, which became listed structures in 2008, during the sites closure.

The council has made a show of involving the community after heated town halls in the past over similar projects.

One such method of contact is a questioner on the councils site. The questions including:

  • Do you agree or disagree that one or more of the four new settlement proposals should form part of the development strategy?
  • Do you agree or disagree that the brownfield site opportunity at Stewartby brickworks should form part of the preferred development strategy?
  • Do you agree or disagree with the selection of Local Green Spaces?

Some residents are less than enthusiastic about the proposed changes and the apparent push for development at Stewartby in particular.

“Wasn’t so long ago those brick works were centre of the county, shouldn’t be tearing them down for a bunch cheap housing.” Said local resident Sam Montgomery.

Others however are eager to get involved: “Housings always been a problem around here and there’s plenty of places which could use some development,” said Jill Beck a local business owner.

There consultation is set to end on the 9th of June but the work on both sides promises to continue for the foreseeable future.

Joshua Jenkins

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