Biggleswade's Mayor and Deputy to boycott bridge ceremony in protest over number of trees used for landscaping

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Biggleswade politicians will be boycotting the groundbreaking ceremony of the town's new bridleway bridge this Tuesday due to a lack of trees in the landscaping plans.

Mayor Councillor Grant Fage and Deputy Mayor Madeline Russell are taking the strong stand after claiming the number of trees surrounding the new bridge, north of Lindsell’s level crossing, has been slashed "from around 110, to fewer than 50".

Cllr Fage said the decision was taken by Central Beds Council at the request of Network Rail, who told the Chronicle they would not be commenting on the issue and it was a matter for CBC to respond to.

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But CBC has told the Chronicle the initial plan was “only an indicative guide” and that the landscaping being carried out would, given time to mature, provide an "acceptable natural screen”.

The new bridge design. Image: Network Rail.The new bridge design. Image: Network Rail.
The new bridge design. Image: Network Rail.

The Mayor, who described the revised number of trees as "regrettable" told the Chronicle: "It was CBC who ultimately made the decision but I know the request came from Network Rail initially.

"The new bridleway bridge will impact the surrounding area forever. It's important to us that it's screened as fully as possible from day one, from all angles. It's a reasonable shade of green, but even so, it's 41ft tall, and will impact upon the local landscape. It's close to River Ivel, Biggleswade Common, and the route out towards the RSPB sanctuary. It's a rural setting but also in close proximity to residential areas.

"This doesn't sit well, and I know that none of the Town Council will be attending the groundbreaking ceremony, including [those who are also] Central Bedfordshire Councillors, Ian Bond and Mark Foster."

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Cllr Fage also noted that the full amount of trees would have been better for the environment and help to reduce carbon emissions, particularly from construction itself, while he claimed that residents are feeling "angry and frustrated", as the "standards have been lowered".

Cllr Fage claimed: "One of the reasons will be around budget constraints; I know the costs of labour and raw materials have increased. There's also the challenge of land ownership, as some of the trees would be on land that the council and Network Rail don't own, and time constraints; I know there's construction planned for Christmas Day when the line is closed. However, it's quite a generous sum of money to build it. It [these factors] would be a challenge, but not necessarily insurmountable!

"The Town Council has worked well with CBC and Network Rail in the past and I'm sure it will continue to do so in future. It is just disappointing that this has been changed at the last minute."

A Central Bedfordshire Council spokesperson, said: “The bridge is an important safety feature that will replace the current level crossing. It is also one of the infrastructure schemes we are delivering to support future growth in Biggleswade.

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“The bridge will form part of the popular Green Wheel bridleway which needs to be an accessible route for walkers, cyclists and horse riders.

“The initial landscaping plan was only an indicative guide, the proposed landscaping will feature 48 trees and also includes over 2,500 other native woodland species that will provide a strong depth and thick landscape edge. These species, with sufficient time for maturity, will mitigate the visual impact of the bridge and provide an acceptable natural screen.”