Campaign group continues to push for Linslade Wood to be granted local nature reserve status

Part of the woods, known as Bluebell Wood, is a county wildlife sitePart of the woods, known as Bluebell Wood, is a county wildlife site
Part of the woods, known as Bluebell Wood, is a county wildlife site
The wood is already protected as a suitable alternative natural green space (SANG)

Attempts to grant Linslade Wood local nature reserve (LNR) status are being stepped up to prevent the surrounding landscape being spoiled by a potential housing development.

Campaigners have been protesting about an adjacent site in Linslade being allocated for housing, as land north of Soulbury Road was first designated in 2018 for 55 homes.

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They fear environmental damage, as the site for these homes in Central Bedfordshire Council’s Local Plan borders Linslade Wood.

CBC’s countryside and leisure team did significant work to help the area formally acquire LNR status after requests by the Friends of Linslade Wood, according to Independent Leighton Linslade West councillor Victoria Harvey.

“But nothing has happened since,” she explained. “So I asked about this at a full council meeting.”

The executive member for planning and development and Independent Toddington councillor Mary Walsh replied: “As Linslade Wood is next to a site allocated in the Local Plan, it wasn’t considered appropriate to give it the LNR status.

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“This might impact on the capacity of the site and be contrary to the adopted Local Plan policy.”

CBC confirmed in a statement: “The Friends of Linslade Wood approached us to seek LNR designation, although measures in place mean the site is protected already.

“Part of the woods, known as Bluebell Wood, is a county wildlife site (CWS) and the whole woodland area is protected as a suitable alternative natural green space (SANG).

“The SANG designation offers greater protection than LNR status, as it contributes to our mitigation strategy to limit the impact of development in parts of southern Central Bedfordshire on the Chilterns Beechwoods Special Area of Conservation.

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“We’ll continue to support the Friends group to ensure the long-term improvement of the woods.”

Councillor Harvey said: “The site on Soulbury Road has been included as part of all the sites allocated in the Central Bedfordshire Local Plan to supply enough housing to meet government targets.

“With the review of the Local Plan under way, I hoped this site could be removed because it’s in a bad position and close to the wood.

“But the Independent administration has chosen to do a full review of this plan, which could take five years. So we’re stuck with the site allocated for 55 homes.

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“There’s one positive development which is that the previous Conservative administration working with Natural England allocated Linslade Wood to be a SANG, which takes the pressure off the Ashridge estate.

“It insists on extra funding from developers to improve access to the wood by making a path around it and to support management of the site.

“With the natural green space, properties shouldn’t be visible,” she added. “So any new housing would need plenty of shrubs and trees planted between it and the wood.

“It seems the block on the LNR is prioritising homes before biodiversity. I’m worried if the Independent group is putting housing before nature.”

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The four-and-a-half acre land north of Soulbury Road site was included in the small and medium allocations of the Local Plan.

Among requirements surrounding its development is “the need for landscape buffers”.