'Planned railway station at Wixams is key to 1,130 home development'

The planned railway station at Wixams is central to a mixed-use development nearby on the edge of Houghton Conquest, according to a Central Bedfordshire councillor.
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Plans have been approved for up to 1,130 homes at Little Thickthorn Farm, with care accommodation, a primary and a secondary school, and land for a local centre.

The site lies immediately south of Wixams, according to a report to Central Bedfordshire Council’s development management committee.

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Independent Biggleswade South councillor Hayley Whitaker said: “Concerns have been raised by many parties. When everyone objects to this there has to be some merit in why they’re so concerned.

Central Bedfordshire Council headquarters. Image: Google.Central Bedfordshire Council headquarters. Image: Google.
Central Bedfordshire Council headquarters. Image: Google.

“Much of this development revolves around this railway station. If that doesn’t happen, this whole site and all of Wixams doesn’t work. This station is central to the whole application.”

Principal planning officer Debbie Quinn told the committee: “Most of the site is allocated for development, but also includes a 22-acre unallocated field. It has outline permission for 650 homes and a countryside park,” she explained.

“Wixams has planning permission for 4,500 homes, a town centre and railway station. These are a southern expansion of Wixams, known as Wixam Park.

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Independent Houghton Conquest and Haynes councillor Rebecca Hares referred to the application as “premature”, saying: “It was restricted in emerging until 2021 when the original Wixams was due to be fully established with the road networks and the railway station, as well as employment. None of this has happened.

“There’s no mixed employment. It’s creating only warehouse jobs. Only a supermarket, a cafe and about eight retail units are proposed for Wixams town centre by way of employment for a settlement of more than 4,500 people.”

Pippa Cheetham, from agents Varsity Town Planning, said: “The scheme will make a significant contribution to the council’s housing allocation for the next five years.

“Just because these surveys were done some years ago, it doesn’t mean everything was set in stone at that time. It’s built into the model.

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“This site coming last in the whole of the Wixams area is sweeping up some of those historic problems.”

Senior transport planner for Royal HaskoningDHV Gina Amuchi said the proposals have been carefully developed to create a single cohesive community.

Conservative Dunstable Watling councillor Nigel Young suggested “the best possible travel plan” is needed to encourage active forms of transport.

“And that’s a message to (applicant) O and H Q7 Limited when it’s developing Marston Vale over a need for wide, bold cycleways.

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“A cross boundary conversation is going on about a medical hub. I wouldn’t like to see us give £2.8m plus to the NHS until we’ve firm proposals about the site and staffing.”

Ms Quinn replied: “We know exactly where Wixams medical centre will be and the land will be provided through Section 106 contributions.”

Councillor Young advised the same flexibility over money set aside for the station.

“This isn’t dependent on Wixams,” he added. “But it contributes £3.5m to bringing it forward. I want to protect the money in case it doesn’t happen, which could be moved into active travel.”