£2.3m Biggleswade rail and bus interchange approved
Mayor says 'It's part of the town centre master plan and is long-awaited'
Plans for a £2.3m rail and bus interchange next to Biggleswade railway station have been approved, following changes to the original proposals which were criticised by town councillors.
The deputy mayor had described it as "a glorified bus stop", while another councillor referred to "disintegrated transport planning".
A new bus concourse, pedestrian crossing points, and the resurfacing of footpaths are included in the redesigned application, according to a report to Central Bedfordshire Council's development management committee.
Senior planning officer David Gauntlett said: "The land is enclosed by a steel palisade fence and was formerly used as a vehicle return yard for a car and van rental company.
"There's a small empty building on the land and there are trees around the perimeter. A raised table at the entrance to Saffron Road was removed from the proposals.
"The small building will be demolished and the remainder of the site opened up to form the bus interchange with three dedicated stops. Five bus shelters are to be provided across the boulevards, which will be standard CBC design."
Town councillors had backed the revised scheme at their meeting the previous evening, subject to a pedestrian crossing being moved to the end of Saffron Road and further talks over the design of the bus shelters.
Biggleswade mayor Madeline Russell told the committee on Wednesday (June 30): "It's part of the town centre master plan and is long-awaited.
"We're grateful for the housing infrastructure fund (HIF) investment which will be providing it," she said.
"The difficulties are because of the constraints of the site, with the lack of cooperation from Network Rail and Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR).
"The problem with the current position of the zebra crossing is it's not on the desire line.
"We need time to investigate other possibilities including the overall loss of parking spaces. We hope this will involve more detailed design discussions in the future."
Conservative Biggleswade South councillor Mark Foster said in an email: "It must be acknowledged the constraints of the site, land ownership, timescales and operating conditions mean the plans presented are the best compromise available.
"It's a pity ward councillors weren't involved in the process earlier and that the railway site hasn't been considered as a whole, as opposed to separate pockets of land.
"It's conceivable Biggleswade could have achieved a true transport interchange.
"I welcome the five bus shelters, but the design of those is flawed being open, seemingly unlit and without seating."
Mr Gauntlett said: "Pushing the crossing towards Saffron Road isn't an option because of the crossover points on the other side of the road and the proximity of junctions."
Biggleswade North councillor Ian Bond suggested taking the zebra crossing out and asking for any such scheme to go to a CBC traffic management meeting.
"If we put the crossing in the current place we could end up causing problems," he warned "We support the principle of having one.
"Whatever we do we're going to lose parking spaces."
Principal highways officer Rob Page: "We looked at uncontrolled crossing points and thought that was unsuitable for the area.
"We can't move it further south because of the regulations on the white lining for the zigzag markings.
"That's the best position for it. If we don't keep it as a condition there's a chance it might not be provided. The disability groups are supportive of where it is."
Planning manager Martin Plummer said a condition could be worded so "it doesn't require the crossing to be implemented in accordance with the plan".
The committee agreed the development with this condition and for further talks to take place over the bus shelter designs.