The Greensand Trust, working with Central Bedfordshire Council and other partners, has planning permission to create a new and exciting Woodlands Visitor Centre near Maulden Wood on the A6. The public facility will be sited on the Deadman’s Hill lay-by where a full range of visitor facilities will provide information about the wood, the environment and the wider area. There will be a café, toilets, additional, safe car parking and also education, community, and meeting space. A shop will sell a variety of woodland-related and other products and also provide a retail outlet for the products from nearby ‘starter-business units’ aimed to encourage the development of wood working enterprises. These in turn will help to create a demand for local timber so providing the income to better manage our woodland.
The whole point of this integrated approach is to encourage jobs and income into the rural area of this part of Bedfordshire as well as improve the condition of the lay-by and the visitor experience to Maulden Wood.
Traffic Regulation Order
Of course these benefits cannot come without some cost. In particular this development is likely to increase public use of the A6 Maulden Wood Lay-by, where there are already safety concerns regarding slow moving traffic crossing the dual carriageway. Highways therefore insist that their concerns are met by closing the gaps in the central barrier immediately opposite the lay-by entrances, by preventing U-turns around the end of the dual carriage way or through other remaining gaps and by enforcing one-way traffic through the lay-by. These are the minimum requirements to ensure safety in the short-term ahead of any further overall improvements to this stretch of the A6 as traffic increases, not least with the impact of the housing growth near Bedford. These required measures have been published for consultation and people who wish to object to, or indeed support, the proposal need to contact the Highways department by 18th December (see woodlands visitor centre – TROs doc) and drawings 001, 002, 003.
Related to the above is a completely separate consultation by the Department for Transport to which people have to respond within 28 days of 6th November as per the published ORDER. This is a technical issue that relates purely to the fact that some of the grass area, principally the verge along the lay-by edge, is classed as part of the Highway and therefore action needs to be taken to allow it to be used by the project for disabled parking and to enable vehicles to cross the verge into the two car parking areas. This is termed ‘stopping-up’ of the highway area concerned and is the area hatched on the plan.
Clearly if you object to the project, and the therefore necessary highways changes, you will wish to raise objections by the stated deadlines. Conversely if you support what the Trust is trying to achieve, we would welcome letters of support so that the Authorities can take a properly balanced view as to the worth of what is to be built and the necessary measures to make it safe.
The Working Woodland Centre is to be developed at Maulden Wood one of the largest woodlands in Bedfordshire covering some 160 hectares and is an attractive mix of semi-natural mixed deciduous and coniferous woodlands and acid grassland. Maulden Wood is recognized as one of the largest and most important remnants of ancient woodland in Bedfordshire, with the majority of the site designated as Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The Visitor Centre will be located in the Deadman’s Hill Lay-by is situated off the A6 between Bedford and Luton. It is adjacent to Maulden Wood Site of Special Scientific Interest, a 250 expanse of woodland and meadows, which attracts 125,000 day visits per annum (Forestry Commission figures).
Next Steps and Timescales for Delivery
Nicolas Tye Architects, a local practice, have been appointed to the project, and a planning application has been submitted in March 2009. If the application is approved, construction will begin in the autumn of 2009, with the Centre opening sometime in 2010.
If you would like more information on this or any other project the Trust is involved with please contact:
Gill Welham/Jon Balaam
The Greensand Trust
The Forest Office
Haynes West End