Creating a legacy with trees

With CO2 emissions continuing to rise, many countries still cutting down their forests threatening wildlife and the effects of climate change looming large, the need for trees has never been so important.

With this as the backdrop, we are prioritising tree planting across Central Bedfordshire to increase natural regeneration in communities. We have recently secured £300,000 in funding over the next four years for tree planting from the Forestry Commission as part of its Treescapes Fund and have match funded this with a further £300,000

This funding will enable us to establish more trees in non-woodland settings such as alongside riverbanks, hedgerows, and footpaths. To start with, we will be focusing on planting in Barton-le-Clay, Biggleswade, Dunstable, Leighton-Linslade and Sandy

We are also supporting The Queen’s Green Canopy, a tree planting initiative created to mark Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee in 2022. To officially launch this locally, we have planted seven trees in Jubilee Wood in Biggleswade – one for each decade the Queen will have reigned next year. 

The environment is a topic currently very much in focus. Our government is hosting COP26, the United Nations Climate Conference and some of the commitments made in Glasgow could directly affect our everyday lives.

In this tree planting season, which runs through to the end of March 2022, we aim to plant around 500 trees in urban areas and have 11,500 in the pipeline via other grants. We also expect 2,900 trees to be planted in celebration of the Queen’s Green Canopy. 

We can all play our part in being #onestepgreener. Planting trees is an investment in our future, which takes time and will help achieve our sustainability targets.

If you are interested in future tree planting information and events you can email: begreen@centralbedfordshire.gov.uk.

School’s out!

It’s been another tough year for our young people who’ve had to adapt to a very new way of learning following the disruption caused by the pandemic. Switching between online and face-to-face lessons, socialising in bubbles and taking regular COVID tests at school have all become the norm. 

Despite the challenges, I have been delighted to hear so many success stories from pupils receiving their GCSE and A-level grades this week and if you are one of those students (I doubt any youngsters will be reading my blog but you never know!), I wish you all the best as you prepare to move on to your next challenge. I’m mindful that there are some of you out there who might not have got the grades that you wanted, or simply don’t know what to do next. There’s lots of free support to help you – whether you need help with writing a CV, guidance on applying for apprenticeships, or simply inspiration on what to do next. Take a look at the Council’s website for more info on these.

I hope the schools are taking a well-earned break this Summer. Most of our schools have remained open throughout the pandemic so I’m sure they will welcome the chance to rest and recharge. My daughter Sophie is a teacher so I know first-hand how hard teachers and other school staff have worked. 

The school holidays should be fun but it can also be challenging to find things to do to entertain the kids, particularly if you’re on a budget. 

Below are some helpful links to a range of activities or facilities in Central Beds that might help to keep your little ones amused and you sane! 

It’s hard to predict what the next academic year will look like, but I’m truly hoping for less disruption for our young ones. One thing that is clear is the resilience of our young people, their parents and carers and staff in schools and colleges for continuing to adapt to these new ways of learning, and I am grateful to you all.

Thanks

Richard

Local Plan gives us certainty

The Local Plan has been a momentous task, it’s a complex set of policies and has been contentious at times. But it is arguably one of the most important policies the council has. Why? Because it gives the council and local people much more control over the future development of our area – it shapes how Central Bedfordshire will change in the years ahead, be that new homes, schools, jobs, or transport.

The Local Plan is a ‘masterplan’ which sets out how Central Bedfordshire will develop over the next twenty years. New homes are often the focus for most people. 39,350 new homes over twenty years is a significant challenge. Central Bedfordshire is described as an area of high growth, this isn’t new, we have long been a popular area for people to move to – we’re close and have good links to London, this coupled with needing more homes for our own young people need somewhere to live means the demand for new homes in our area. This demand for new homes is not new going away. We will have to build more homes and the Local Plan helps us to control where this happens and what services and infrastructure we expect to be built with them. It also sets out the requirements for supporting roads, schools, retail, leisure, and community facilities, such as new country parks, to ensure developments are not just housing estates but are actually places where people want to live, bring up their families and make their home – just like you and me.

Without an adopted Local Plan, there is precious little we could do to stop developers building wherever they want to.  The good news is that, now we have an adopted Local Plan, we are in a stronger position to reject applications that don’t meet our expectations.

Something that often gets overlooked is the Local Plan also sets out areas for new and expanded employment sites, which will create a minimum of 24,000 new jobs.

Producing a Local Plan that balances the conflicting pressures of ambitious government targets for new homes and jobs, whilst protecting the countryside and green belt isn’t easy. It’s an understandably emotive issue. I know as well as anyone that residents care deeply about their local environment, especially preserving our precious green or open spaces. So, it’s no mean feat that we have successfully managed to adopt a Local Plan which provides a sustainable, balanced, and achievable strategy for future growth and development.