Warning over water hazard as talks on Leighton Buzzard lake remain deadlocked

Sandhills lake......photo Graham Mountford
Sandhills lake......photo Graham Mountford

Talks over the handover of a community lake from a developer to Central Bedfordshire Council are still dragging on after several years – as Beds Police issues a summer warning about the dangers of swimming in risky water areas.

Previously highlighted as a hazard, Pratts Quarry at the Sandhills Estate in Leighton Buzzard was due to be handed over by developers Arnold White Estates to CBC as part of Section 106 planning agreements.

The recreational lake - which filled in a crater at Pratt’s Quarry - was built by Arnold White Estates when they constructed the estate.

It was always intended that the responsibility for the lake would be handed over to Central Bedfordshire Council as a recreational facility, but negotiations stumbled over the amount of money that would be handed over to run the lake.

Back in February it was indicated to the LBO by Taylor Wimpey that an agreement was on the verge of being completed, but that appears to have been premature.

Three summers ago councillors, as well as the Southern Residents Group, urgently called on Sibelco to take action at the site after youngsters got through fencing to wade into the water.

Town and CBC councillor Amanda Dodwell said at the time: “My greatest concern is the hazard posed by the lake.

“A number of residents have reported seeing children playing in the water, and I fear that as we approach the summer months this type of activity will only increase.

“I don’t want to be a killjoy, but playing in a flooded quarry is one of the most dangerous things you can do. Even on a hot day, the water will be extremely cold, and even the strongest of swimmers can very quickly get into difficulty.”

This week, following the Beds Police warning, she added talks on the lake remained in a stalemate.

Cllr Dodwell said: “The negotiations between the owner of the lake and Central Bedfordshire Council are ongoing. However, part of the section 106 agreement between AWE and the council does make provision for the area around the lake to be opened up for recreational use. I hope that we will very soon see progress on this.”

A spokesman for Central Beds Council added: “The owners of the lake, Arnold White Estates, offered the lake to Central Beds Council. However, this was declined as the council decided that the package offered would place an unacceptable ongoing financial burden on the council and there is no requirement for the council to adopt the lake.

“The legal agreement in place still requires the lake to be managed and access to be provided by public rights of way. It will be up to the owner either to do this themselves or via a third party and bear the costs associated with this.”

When the lake’s future is finally resolved it will lead to Anglian Water adopting the sewerage network from Persimmon Homes and Taylor Wimpey, which in turn should result in Central Beds Council adopting the roads across the development.

Building of the estate began in the early 2000s, but despite 1,500 houses now being constructed, so far just three roads (Johnson Drive, Kestrel Way and Turnham Drive) have been taken on by CBC.

> This week’s Beds Police warning stated that taking a quick dip could have potential tragic consequences.

The force is encouraging people to pay a visit to the county’s many leisure centres and lidos instead.

Those walking, running or cycling near open water should also ensure they stay well clear of bank edges to avoid trips and falls.

Chief Inspector Hob Hoque said: “Even the strongest of swimmers can get into difficulty as a result of undercurrents and deeper water, a bit of fun splashing around can soon turn into something a lot more tragic - as we have unfortunately seen in previous years.”