‘Do not destroy unique village’

Public viewing of new housing development at Woburn village hall Crawley road, Woburn
Public viewing of new housing development at Woburn village hall Crawley road, Woburn

Villagers sitting on opposite sides of the fence over plans to build social housing on green belt land in Woburn gave their verdict at an exhibition.

The Woburn Registered Provider is preparing to submit a planning application for affordable housing, with a mix of 16 two and three-bed houses on a field in Timber Lane.

On Tuesday evening, villagers were invited to Woburn Village Hall to meet the developers, see details of the site and fill in a questionnaire.

Dave Woods, 61, whose home in Timber Lane would overlook part of the development, said: “I did have preconceived ideas and to be honest I am still against it because of many reasons; infrastructure of the village, traffic problems, pedestrian problems on Leighton Street and this is just going to make the gridlock that we get in the village worse.

“There is a development being done just up in the road in the Milton Keynes area, which means the area itself has enough land and development going on to support the population that is required.

“You don’t need to destroy Georgian villages that are unique in the area. It is overstretched as it is.”

In 2008, a survey by the Woburn Parish Plan showed the majority of residents were against building new homes in the village, but there was a lot of support for starter homes.

Mr Woods added: “There was a unanimous decision by the villagers against building new homes in Woburn in 2008 and this flies in the face of our democratic processes as far as I am concerned.

“It is only being done for profit; they are selling land for profit and building houses for profit. There is no moral to this. The reason they are doing social housing is because they can presumably get the planning permission they need easier than building executive homes.”

Vicky Rowe, 42, of Market Place, Woburn said: “I think it’s great. I have lived in the village for 15 years and seen so many kids grow up that can’t afford to live where their families are. The few council houses they have in Woburn aren’t necessarily given to local people and it is a shame to lose family connections.

“If they are going to provide it for local familes then I think it’s a good thing. That’s really important.

“It’s not going to make a big difference to people here or a huge impact on traffic. They are still supplying a big green area so I really don’t think it’s going to have an adverse affect on anybody’s view.

“Unfortunately growth is going to happen in this country no matter what.”

The planning application is expected to be submitted to Central Beds Council in the summer and will include ‘a series of technical and environmental assessments’, and shape the design concept of the site including topics such as green belt, traffic, ecology landscape and drainage.

Speaking at the exhibition, which was attended by 150 people, Woburn representative Councillor Budge Wells, said: “I live in Woburn and deem this to be a very good idea to attract people who need to work and/or live here, but they’ve got to pitch their rent right so that people can afford to live here.

“The council will look at this as a Rural Exception Site (RES) so it will be very heavily planned by us because otherwise, if it doesn’t conform then what is the point in them putting an application in, they wouldn’t get it.

“What RES stops is developers coming into a lovely place like Woburn and banging up half a dozen big houses and coming out with a big profit.

“This is for the benefit of potential tenants and clearly the Woburn Estate will own the land and in time the properties will revert to them anyway.

“The viability of Woburn at the moment is touch and go. We have lost one shop and an art gallery because either the rents are too high or people aren’t coming into Woburn to use the facilities.

“I’m told that Woburn can’t attract firemen because they can’t afford to live here. Now if there was affordability in Woburn, that is a classic example of someone who might want to work in the village but can’t because everything else is so expensive, but there they get subsidised rent. It demonstrates what this development is about.”