Cllr says: ‘Central Beds Council has broken promises to Houghton Regis’

Investing £100,000 on outdoor gym equipment in Houghton Regis would be a boost for the area when lockdown has highlighted the importance of exercise, a meeting heard.

An amendment to Central Bedfordshire Council’s budget was called for by Labour Parkside Councillor Antonia Ryan.

She accused the local authority of “taking away our land, banking our money, leaving us without proper infrastructure and false hope”.

Her argument was based around new homes bonus from the government failing to be spent on the local community where the housing was provided.

“I’m here to speak on the amendment to the budget of £100,000 to be taken out of Houghton Regis’ contribution to the new homes bonus, which sits unused in (CBC) reserves,” she told a full council meeting.

“Houghton Regis is the most deprived area in Central Bedfordshire,” she said.

“Parkside has 34 per cent children living in poverty and life expectancy significantly lower in comparison to our neighbours.”

Councillor Ryan referred to broken promises during the last four years, including the £125m for the Legacy Foundation project involving “top footballers”.

There was also “a housing infrastructure fund (HIF) bid of £128m, which was deemed the amount needed to make an impact”.

And “recently £12m for a leisure centre, all of which have failed,” she added.

“Covid has taught us that our health should be at the forefront of everything we do, and that our open spaces are more important than ever.

“But Houghton Regis has seen changes over the years with an estimated 12,000 more homes.

“The land used by cyclists, walkers and runners is now a no go area as it’s been turned into building sites.

“This amendment seeks £100,000 for outdoor gym equipment in Parkside for all age groups to support the mental health and wellbeing of the area.”

Independent Tithe Farm councillor Pat Hamill backed the move, asking: “What’s wrong with this council paying some money back?

“We all want a better Bedfordshire, but that seems to exclude Houghton Regis.

“Leave our amenity areas for this town to start to recover.”

Conservative Arlesey councillor David Shelvey replied: “This equipment is normally funded through Section 106 development contributions or town and parish council precepts.

“The average cost of these gyms is £18,000-20,000. One was fitted for around that sort of amount in my ward.

“There’s a substantial amount of uncommitted Section 106 funding which may be eligible for this.

“I suggest the ward member investigates that along with the town council.”

Conservative Westoning, Flitton and Greenfield Councillor James Jamieson said: “The good news for Houghton Regis is some councillors are working to deliver, rather than politically posturing.”

He referred to the town council’s vision 2020 to 2024, aiming to provide outdoor equipment, noting: “It’s delivered on Orchard Close and the village green, and is looking at Parkside and Tithe Farm.

“Houghton Regis is a deprived area, which needs regeneration. We’ve sought more funding, but it’s had a lot.

“There’s the Woodside Link, the M1/A5 road, Houghton Hall Park, a new school, All Saints’ View, tens of million of pounds for the town, and it will get a new leisure centre as the housing build out happens.

“Councillor Ryan mentions the arbitrary £1m owed to Houghton Regis. This is an inaccurate figure.

“By my calculations, supported by officers, that amount is substantially lower.”

The amendment was defeated.