Public statement on behalf of Silsoe Parish Council
This statement relates to the land to the south of the village commonly called the Bloor Estate. The statement sets out the current position of the Parish Council following a unilateral decision made by Central Bedfordshire Council. From the very outset of the development of the old Cranfield University site it was understood that some areas of land around the site would be made available for transferred to the village as public amenity areas. In 2009 a s.106 planning agreement was entered into which dealt (amongst many other things) with the open spaces on the new estate. Essentially there were 3 relevant areas; (a) the Community Woodland, (b) the Village Park, what is now known as the cricket pitch, and (c) the Village Green consisting of 3 areas which form the frontage to the estate facing onto the Barton Road.
The planning agreement provided was the mechanism proposed by Central Bedfordshire Council by which these areas should be offered to the village in fulfilment of the offer by Cranfield University of the areas to the village once the Bloor Estate was developed in return for the support from the village for the proposed development. Last year the Parish Council learned that an Officer of Central Bedfordshire Council had notified Bloor Homes that the land was not wanted. This was done without any consultation with the Parish Council and in the face of years of activity between the Parish Council and Bloor Homes when the proposed transfers were discussed and planned. The Parish Council were outraged at this decision and sought a meeting with the Chief Executive of Central Bedfordshire Council but he and his officials have consistently refused to meet to discuss the matter.
Recently Bloor Homes served a notice to Silsoe Parish Council offering to transfer the Community Woodland and that is now in hand. It is likely that transfer will also include the Plantation View play area near the Silsoe Community Sports Centre as this is within the Community Woodland area. However, at a meeting held last week Bloor Homes confirmed that it will not be offering a transfer of the other 2 areas (b) and (c), relying on the CBC decision. Instead, its intention is in due course to transfer management and ownership of the 2 areas to a Management Company which will then become responsible for its maintenance and upkeep. This means households on the Bloor Estate will be responsible for the ongoing costs of this, including management fees, whereas the s.106 stipulated that Bloor Homes (as the developer) would provide funds for an initial period of around 15 years with then ultimately the Parish Council becoming responsible for the ongoing costs via the Parish Precept.
Unfortunately, the Parish Council was not a party to the 2009 s.106 agreement although it is mentioned in it and in other related documents. The Parish Council is to seek further advice on their position and whether Central Bedfordshire Council can make this decision unilaterally given their original commitment to use the s.106 agreement simply as a mechanism to deliver what has been agreed between Cranfield University, the Parish Council and Central Bedfordshire Council. In the meantime, the Parish Council will continue to try and pursue matters with Central Bedfordshire Council and Bloor Homes to see if an acceptable solution can be found to resolve this unsatisfactory situation.
Ian Kelly Chairman – Silsoe Parish Council 18th January 2023