Big news from Bedfordshire

Ms-Sadek's-gal-300pxI am very sorry about my recent absence from this place. We’ve had an uber-busy summer at UK Regeneration, but that’s no excuse. But blogging is a bit like exercise: the more you do it the easier it gets (and no, I’ve not been doing any exercise either, as if you needed to ask). However, I’ve been a bit preoccupied , both on the domestic and  work fronts, and I kind of fell out of the habit. I can only apologise…

I will try to make amends now.  And there is so much going on!

Where to start? I won’t bore you for too long with my domestics, but on 25 August in the blazing sunshine the Kidult got married.  Blimey, how old can you get?  I will maintain she was a child bride, but of course she is perfectly old enough to get hitched. Assiduous readers of this blog (which is also rather long in the tooth now) may recall her going to university (see 21 August 2009), so who am I kidding?

Thankfully I was let off rather lightly in the arrangements department, and (Gawd love ‘er) she was in no way a Bridezilla, but it still proved a bit of a distraction.  A terrific success altogether though, a fairytale wedding really, and it was very kind of her to have her reception at Trinity Buoy Wharf so that all her mum’s mates could feel at home in London Docklands.  It was a right old knees up, in actual fact.  And full of love and joy, so that can’t be bad.  But all I can say is (now that we’ve heartily congratulated the happy couple), Thank The Lord that’s over!

Also full of love and joy was the truly excellent news on 4 July (Independence Day of course, most appropriately) that Biggleswade, the town in Bedfordshire where UKR has our main site, was allocated “growth point” status in the Central Beds Local Plan.

Naturally we put the bunting out immediately; and then the statutory period of consultation kicked in for eight weeks.  So Gill Marshall (slingbacks freshly polished and to the ready) and I spent most of the summer sitting outside the marvellous Surfin’ Café in Biggleswade town square, drinking tea, eating excellent egg sandwiches, and talking to absolutely anyone, anyone at all, who would talk to us.  The weather was kind, in the main, and thankfully the people seem equally so.

What a lovely bunch!  Our first formal meeting (as a matter of courtesy) was with Biggleswade Town Council, which turned out to be most authoritative and well informed – a credit to civic leadership.

They were perhaps a little bit cool to start with, but they soon began to open up, as we made it clear that we were still formulating our plans, and that we wholly agreed with them in every regard about the need for the infrastructure up front to support any new housing. And, most importantly of all, that nothing would be decided without consulting them (and indeed everyone else in the neighbourhood).

We are gently proposing a number of discrete residential villages to the east of Biggleswade that will emerge from a country park.  And they quite liked the concept.  But I told them we were not interested in their unconditional support; we are only interested in their support for us doing the right thing, working in close partnership with them.  And they do know that, as the housing crisis intensifies, to do nothing is not an option.  It was a great first meeting and got us off to a great start.  And it wholly reinforced our firmly held view that the experts in any local place – and the people best able to build their local economies – are the local leaders, both civic and business, of that place.

We spent the summer introducing ourselves as a well-meaning bunch of urban regeneration practitioners who have gone into development to demonstrate that it is possible to bring forward commercial developments, working closely with the local community and without compromising the natural environment. And everyone we have spoken to throughout these two months has added value in some way.

As a result, the UKR mission is firmly back on track.  And we want to work with absolutely everyone to secure all the potential benefits that could be conferred on Biggleswade as a whole through the building out of our site; we intend to improve the standard of living for all the people of Biggleswade.

UKR is wholly committed to ensuring that a package of “liveability” measures is brought forward through the masterplan, including running and cycling tracks, allotments, dog walking facilities, schools, health facilities, transport improvements, support for the existing town centre, and the reintroduction of more biodiversity and landscaping as appropriate – to pick from a far-from-exhaustive list.

It is all so exciting.  We’ve had a great summer. We have secured a big site, and we propose to use it to open up all sorts of opportunities to all the existing and incoming residents of Biggleswade. And we look forward to working with all of them, every one.

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