CHALLENGES Facing Woburn Sands
Published: 15 January 2020
Challenges facing Woburn Sands
Over the last few years the population of Woburn Sands has grown significantly, and there will be further modest growth once the Parklands development is completed. The population growth has been matched with an increase in the level of facilities – the Summerlin Centre, the relocation and expansion of the Library, and the extension to the Old Fire Station; additional resources have also been invested in the Medical Centre and the local schools. Shortly we will have a new Community Room in Greens Court and a Sports Hall, and planning is underway for the renovation of the Recreation Ground.
But we are now facing three more challenges. Two of these are national in nature while one is the local consequence of Plan MK. The two national initiatives are the possible expressway and the expansion of East/West Rail; both of which are planned to run between Oxford and Cambridge.
These two projects stem from a national commitment to improve the UK’s long term competitive position. In order to ensure the economic strength of the country the Government is committed to developing the arc between Oxford and Cambridge; this arc incorporates three world-class educational and research institutions working in science, engineering, and technology (Oxford, Cambridge, and Cranfield) and a number of leading-edge industrial clusters such as the motor industry around Silverstone and space industry around Stevenage. The Government is concerned to ensure that the various centres of excellence in the arc continue to work at a high level and to increasingly work together for the benefit of the UK. To this end it is important that there are strong communication links across the arc which, in turn will support the development of the highly skilled workforce which will be necessary to achieve the Government’s aims.
This is the rationale for the expressway and railway proposals. Their completion will considerably enhance the employment prospects of everyone in the arc, including the residents of Woburn Sands; at a more local level these projects will enable local residents easier access to the major facilities, such as the John Radcliffe and Addenbrookes hospitals, at either end of the arc.
However there are significant downsides to both these projects. There are considerable environmental consequences to the expressway in particular. The land-take will be relatively high and there will be considerable light and noise pollution from the traffic, to say nothing of the disturbance caused by the construction process. Depending on the chosen route the expressway might cut through part of Woburn Sands. If the railway is expanded as planned then the railway crossing in Woburn Sands is likely to be closed to road traffic thus cutting the Woburn Sands community in two.
No final decisions have yet been taken on either of these two projects. The Highways Agency has proposed a possible route to the Department of Transport and the Secretary of State is due to make an announcement shortly. Under current legislative arrangements there will then follow a consultation period and a Public Inquiry. Once the Secretary of State’s proposals become known the Town Council will arrange local meetings for residents to comment and will draft an appropriate response. In the meantime there is a local opposition group publishing more details about the possible environmental consequences of the expressway. (To contact the local group email email@example.com; the website for the opposition coordinating group is https://www.noexpressway.org/contact-us)
The East/West Rail proposal is more complex since its future is tied in with Government decisions on HS2 (the West end of the line intersects with HS2). The Government is expected to make an announcement on this in the near future.
The local challenge arises from the proposal under PlanMK to build up to 3000 houses between Woburn Sands and Bow Brickhill. Final decisions on that proposal are on hold until more is known on the route of the expressway since it could run within that site. In the meantime Milton Keynes Council (which will be the final arbiter on the development of the site) convened a stakeholder meeting of all the affected local parishes which has now been meeting for the last 18 months. That meeting has provisionally discussed how the community of Woburn Sands can be protected and it is envisaged that there will be a green buffer zone of some sort between Woburn Sands and the development; the development will also incorporate additional medical facilities which will benefit the residents of Woburn Sands.
As can be seen these are challenging times for the residents of Woburn Sands (and the surrounding parishes). They arise because we are living in one of the most economically successful parts of the UK but we need to ensure that we do not suffer from success. We have managed the balance between growth and community development reasonably well over the last few years and need to remain vigilant to continue that in the next few years. The Town Council is fully involved in the various discussions and will hold a substantive debate to determine an agreed policy in respect of the expressway once the proposed route is published; the Council’s preliminary views will be presented to a public meeting to enable residents to express their opinion. These will then form the basis of the Council’s submission to any Inquiry. You may also like to note that the Town’s Annual Meeting will be held on Tuesday 21 April when there will be an opportunity to raise any questions regarding the above challenges.
Mayor of Woburn Sands