Fringe Box



Letter: Dragon Report Ignored Planning Grounds Comments on Walnut Bridge

Published on: 16 Oct, 2018
Updated on: 16 Oct, 2018

From Caroline Reeves

Lib Dem borough councillor for Friary & St Nicolas

In response to: New Walnut Bridge Plan Approved – Despite Remaining Design Concerns

It’s unfortunate that the original report of the Planning Committee decision on the Walnut Tree Bridge chose to ignore any of the comments that were made on planning grounds.

As the ward member for Friary & St Nicolas who sits on the planning committee I was very aware that there was much to say in my three minutes to counteract the previous speakers, some of whose comments didn’t relate to planning policy. What I did say was that the key comments had come from the National Trust, who own the waterway and the towpath, and the Environment Agency.

As was also said, the National Trust had objected on two grounds, both of which were overcome: the colour is easily agreed as is the position of the lighting and both are covered by conditions. The Environment Agency are key because this can be an area of very severe flooding as the residents in the Mary and William Roads area know only too well, and any design must aim to decrease flooding risk and not make it worse.

It was acknowledged that this may not be the most inventive bridge design, but it is in keeping with the industrial nature of this part of the Wey navigation. It is also part of the Bedford Wharf landscape that, with the purchase of Old Orleans and cinema site, will at last allow the creation of a high quality public open space – bearing in mind the flooding issue.

The consultant who spoke gave clear reasons to support the application, although The Dragon appeared to suggest there was something untoward in him giving his opinion. It is usual for a developer or applicant to have someone speak in support, and the applicant in this case is GBC.

The current bridge is used by cyclists, sometimes at speed, and as with all shared surfaces surely everyone should be conscious of others whether they are pedestrians, in a wheelchair, with a pushchair or on a bike? The improved gradient of the ramps will make their use much easier for those who can’t use the steps.

For cyclists who want to access to or from the towpath from Walnut Tree Close, there’s a path just a few turns of the pedals further north which has only four steps, and further on there’s currently a new level access. I agree that the stepped access at this point is very far from ideal either currently or at the new bridge (where it will be wider), but this is the difference in the land levels, and the towpath can’t be made wider at this point.

I regret the attempt by Howard Smith [who commented on the original article] to turn this into a party political matter as the planning committee is quasi-judicial and party politics should play no part in the decisions we make there.

The Lib Dems are not afraid to have open debate in public about such issues and our councillors and representatives will always put their community first with no requirement to slavishly follow a party whip.

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Responses to Letter: Dragon Report Ignored Planning Grounds Comments on Walnut Bridge

  1. Wayne Smith Reply

    October 16, 2018 at 11:09 am

    Caroline Reeves says it is usual for an applicant or developer to have someone speak in support of their application but why didn’t that speaker declare his interest (working for the consultants on a GBC project)? Was it because this was a GBC application before the GBC Planning Committee and those “in the know” already knew who Mr Royd was? So much for openness and transparency.

    If I remember correctly, an existing mature walnut tree has to be cut down in order to make way for this replacement bridge. May I suggest that GBC also takes the opportunity to rename the new bridge as “Furniss’ Folly”.

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