'Exciting year of delivery' ahead for key projects says Central Beds Council

Projects include the transformation of Sandy Secondary School and Biggleswade's housing infrastructure fund

Tuesday, 18th May 2021, 3:38 pm
Updated Tuesday, 18th May 2021, 3:40 pm
CBC's Chicksands head office

An "exciting year of delivery" lies in store for residents, a Central Bedfordshire Council meeting heard.

Council leader and Conservative Arlesey councillor Richard Wenham described the last 12 months as "very challenging" in his first annual report.

But he heaped praise on the local population "for sticking to sometimes onerous rules" and helping each other.

"This council and its residents have undoubtedly stepped up in response to that challenge," he told the local authority's annual meeting.

"It was disappointing no mention was made in the Queen's Speech about local government finance, including localisation of business rates and fairer funding.

"For our local authority, pressures remain unabated, particularly in certain areas, such as older people, vulnerable adults and children's services with increased support demands for children at risk.

"Unsurprisingly we're seeing a big increase in referrals as we come out of lockdown.

"And we've pressures in education, including our commitment to improve special educational needs and disability (SEND) services for which we've committed extra funding of more than £1m.

"That said, we're in a good financial position with a continued careful approach, which will allow increased investment in our services, but mindful of medium-term funding risks."

Councillor Wenham said savings on buildings and administration costs during the pandemic means front line services benefit from extra support.

On the council's 2050 vision and sustainability plan, he spoke about its main guiding themes.

"During the next few months, key steps in the vision will emerge in the tactical plan covering the period up to the end of the next administration in 2027.

"We're making strong progress in delivering our sustainability plan, with everything from tree planting to electric vehicle infrastructure."

The next year will see the delivery of and start of key projects, he added, such as the transformation of Sandy Secondary School and improved leisure facilities and significant progress on key parts of the Biggleswade housing infrastructure fund (HIF).

"We're also hopeful of the final completion of the Local Plan and the start of the M1/A6 link road, bringing thousands of homes and jobs to our southerly boundary with Luton.

"The government has announced in the Queen's Speech a new housing Bill and we'll be fully engaged with our MPs and the Local Government Association in understanding the impact of this on our area.

"Regionally, East West Rail has just started its consultation on the Marston Vale line and on finalising a route option for the Bedford to Cambridge section.

"The government has spoken about a strengthened approach to Oxford-Cambridge Arc and a draft spacial strategy is due to be released later this year."

A new portfolio covering health, communities and leisure is the catalyst for substantial extra investment in countryside access and highways this year.

"On the public rights of way network, 64 bridges have been identified for a significant upgrade or replacement," explained councillor Wenham.

"Extra highways investment will enable faster and more widespread fixing of minor issues, which irritate residents, such as broken street lights, fading lines and missing signs.

"And there'll be footpath extensions, such as the Biggleswade Green Wheel expansion from Sandy to Tempsford."