Highest honour for Leighton’s countryside campaigner

Thurstan Adburgham receives CPRE Countryside Medal.
Thurstan Adburgham receives CPRE Countryside Medal.

A countryside campaigner from Leighton Buzzard has been recognised for 20 years of dedication to the protection of the environment.

Thurstan Adburgham, 77, of Harrow Road, has been awarded the CPRE Countryside Medal by the charity and was presented with the honour at the annual meeting, and is the highest a branch can award volunteers.

Thurstan has been a staunch defender of Bedfordshire’s countryside, including the Green Belt and Chiltern Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, campaigning and engaging in the local planning system against developments that threaten them.

He said: “I first became involved with CPRE in the mid-1990s, at the time the Linslade Western Bypass was being worked up into its final form. This local issue was one that led me down a path of involvement in countryside and landscape protection issues across Bedfordshire as a whole.”

Having been involved in numerous campaigns over 20 years, Thurstan has three particular highlights where CPRE played a key part in seeing off schemes that were very damaging to the Leighton’s surroundings – the Bloor Homes proposal for 199 houses on Green Belt land at the top of Stoke Road, the Haven Developments proposal for a ‘retirement complex’ on Green Belt land alongside Linslade Woods, and the Paul Newman proposal for a 900 home urban extension at Valley Farm, on the west side of Linslade.

He said: “All these cases went to appeal following initial refusal, and all three appeals – at which I gave evidence on behalf of CPRE - were dismissed. Unfortunately, Paul Newman have come back again with a revised scheme for 300 houses – CPRE is objecting to this also.”

Over the years there have been a few disappoints too, however.

He said: “Here at Leighton, the major one is our failure to prevent the 2,500 home urban extension on the east side of the town, which not just pushes sprawl out into attractive Green Belt countryside but will in our view have grossly unsustainable adverse impacts on the town and its surroundings, particularly in terms of traffic generation and congestion.

“We argued for a much smaller extension of up to 500 homes – one that would be tailored to the future needs of the town’s own population rather than supplying homes for people coming in from outside the local area. However, this line of argument did not prevail.”

CPRE Bedfordshire’s chairman Gerry Sansom presented the award and said: “Thurstan has established himself as a vigorous and dedicated local campaigner and is a hugely effective champion of the South Bedfordshire countryside.”

Thurstan added: “The task of protecting the area’s fine countryside from inappropriate developments is immensely important for future generations.

“Although there has inevitably been some disappointments over the years, there have also been many noteworthy successes, which has made the job hugely satisfying and worthwhile. It is work in which I have been both glad and proud to play a part.”