Monday, 23 May 2016

An extract of email laying out the conservation credentials for reopening and protecting a Northampton-Olney-Bedford rail route


'Thank you for your email.

Whilst I respect your selection and need to be circumspect, none-the-less we have a situation at Olney where in local, specific and principle terms, the nature of the landscape is changing or on the cusp of a major expansion North of the town, principally because with 2 sides of the town surrounded by the Great River Ouse there is little scope for developing elsewhere. Thus Northern Olney is under threat. From a conservation point of view, 2 well established hedgerows would have to be ripped out - we have already seen it at Biddenham Turn where a newt laden field which had a boggy feel to it, has been turned over to housing, a pond made to act as a drain, has subsequently been filled and is itself to be developed, leaving no conservation patch for remnant wildlife to return but by the whim of gardeners later on. The Lavendon Road, Olney warrants special interest - a Planning Inspector said that the old trackbed should be retained for landscaping purposes - Milton Keynes Council has planning applications and local plan designations for these to be developed right up to the trackbed. 

It would not be incompatible for a new railway to be reinserted by the field which was to be used for Sainsbury's and a fuelling point, presumably for the non-existent bypass (A509) which plys through Olney with many juggernaut lorries as a rat run between A45 Wellingborough and M1/Milton Keynes. 

The sites and fields are a nature conservation area and green border to the existing town in landscape terms. It should not be compromised, adding more cars to the area. Whilst I respect the limits of what you can do, any interest to support the railway and stop these developments scuppering it's passage would be welcome, given the need to reduce over all emissions and ensure flows of sustainable footfalls and spend to towns like Olney, which the railway would uniquely deliver with better timings for commuting to Bedford at just 15 minutes end to end, contrast 25 minutes by bus currently. The wider London commute and issues of 12 miles drive time to and from a nearest station contrast a local station with commuter parking for all day; shows that the railway could make an environmental contribution and could itself have hedgerows bordering it making for a green corridor. A linear park was tried near Great Houghton using the old trackbed for example and these mechanisms help keep the reopening option open for the future.

The great danger is that a select focus' on 'oasis'' for special attention, defaults to a desertification of the wider context of the landscape or 'open to market forces' making wildlife habitat a postcode lottery than a consistent warp and weft of the landscape with the needs of homo-sapiens to be suitably accommodated. Accommodation fine, but stewarding the context to reduce waste of natural resources must surely be a conservation goal?

If you feel you can offer us any support, that is welcome. Thank you.'


If you want to take a deeper interest in saving hedgerows then this website could be just for you too:

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