Transformational growth in Biggleswade - FAQs
What ‘transformational growth’ is happening in Biggleswade?
Central Bedfordshire is at the heart of the Oxford - Cambridge Arc, playing a vital role in delivering economic and housing growth. 20,000 new homes are planned over the next 20 years in addition to the 23,000 homes that are already allocated or have planning permission.
In Biggleswade, c.3,000 new homes are set to be delivered in the next 15 years. Less than an hour’s commute to London, 30 minutes from Cambridge, Luton and Bedford, sited directly on the A1, Biggleswade is of significant interest to people looking to create their future family homes within a quality environment, and to companies looking for an affordable site within an ideal national transport radius. However, the town cannot support further housing and commercial growth without significant infrastructure investment.
The successful Housing Infrastructure Fund bid means that the we can support new and existing communities in Biggleswade by ensuring they have the transport, schools and power to sustain the homes being built.
What is the Housing Infrastructure Fund?
The Housing Infrastructure Fund is a government capital grant programme of up to £5.5 billion, for new physical infrastructure which will unlock sites in the areas of greatest housing demand and help to deliver thousands of new homes in England.
Funding is being awarded to local authorities on a highly competitive basis. We submitted a detailed business case bid for the government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) in March 2019. Full funding was announced by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) on 17 August 2019.
Our bid is one of 14 projects to be successful across the country to date.
More information on HIF is available on the GOV.UK website.
Why did Biggleswade win?
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and its housing delivery agency Homes England assessed our bid on its value for money, deliverability, and strategic approach.
The bid was prepared by us, working with:
- Biggleswade Town Council
- Network Rail
- UK Power Networks
- Biggleswade Schools
- Bedfordshire Rural Communities Charities
- UK Regeneration
- Hallam Land
- Highways England
- Homes England
- Infrastructure and Projects Authority
How much will Biggleswade receive and what will the funding pay for?
We bid for £69.6 million of grant funding. The money will be used to fund:
- building a new secondary school
- a transport interchange at the train station
- a replacement bridge for people, cyclists and horse riders to the north of Biggleswade where the Green Wheel Bridleway crosses the East Coast Mainline
The money will also be used to upgrade the power capacity for the local community, allowing for ever increasing demands and business growth.
HIF funding can only be used for capital expenditure and is subject to terms and conditions. We are still waiting to receive the formal confirmation of the HIF offer and any associated funding conditions. We anticipate there being a number of conditions attached to the funding, but we do not know yet what those conditions will be and do not anticipate receiving details on this until mid September.
How much will it cost to deliver the infrastructure?
Overall, £153 million of investment of which £69.6 million is from HIF, is required to deliver the four infrastructure schemes. The entire Biggleswade programme, including the private sector investment to bring forward the c.3,000 homes, will deliver a £1 billion investment in a key part of the Oxford-Cambridge Arc.
When will the infrastructure be delivered?
We bid for funding ahead of housing being built in order to ensure essential infrastructure is in place ahead of town growth. The infrastructure will be delivered in phases and by 2024/25. The timeline for the Biggleswade programme will be confirmed once the terms and conditions for the HIF funding have been agreed.
What is a ‘Supergrid’ and where will it be built?
A supergrid increases the distance over which electricity can be carried. The HIF funded project in Biggleswade will boost power supply in Ivel Valley and potentially beyond. To create the Supergrid, two transformers will be installed that will increase capacity, effectively working as an ‘extension lead’ to areas of need.
Currently Biggleswade draws around 40MW capacity per annum and is close to reaching this capacity. The new Supergrid will initially boost power capacity by an additional 80MW allowing for residential and employment growth, with the balance of 160MW available as demand increases through housing, employment, electric vehicles and technology over the longer term.
The supergrid will require a small site close to existing electricity pylons to the East of Biggleswade. A provisional site has been identified on council owned land off the B1042, subject to planning.
Why do we need a bridleway bridge to the North of Biggleswade?
Lindsells Crossing is where Biggleswade Bridleway No11 crosses the East Coast Main Line. The bridleway is part of Biggleswade’s Green Wheel, a walking and cycling route around the outskirts of Biggleswade. The level crossing has a high risk score. The removal of the level crossing and its replacement with an overbridge is essential infrastructure as new housing development will lead to additional equestrian and pedestrian traffic on the bridleway.
Now that Housing Infrastructure Fund grant has been secured, we will work in partnership with Network Rail to replace Lindsells Crossing with a safe bridge crossing accessible to pedestrians, cyclists and horses.
What is the transport interchange at Biggleswade station?
The transport interchange is a redevelopment of the land to the front and side of the existing railway station in Biggleswade to allow for bus stops, cycle parking, improved pedestrian access, a bus turning circle and some additional car parking spaces. It will include unused scrub land belonging to Network Rail at the side of the station. The interchange will make it easier to switch between bus and train, cycle/foot and train with the aim of encouraging people into use of sustainable transport services rather than their own cars. The transport interchange improvements, alongside separately funded improvements to ensure step free access at the station, should offer real improvements for passengers.
Where will the new school be built?
The Biggleswade HIF funding is to support the delivery of new secondary school places in accordance with our emerging Schools for the Future Programme. Our education team will continue to work with local schools over the coming months and years to review all options and determine the most appropriate solution.
For the purpose of the HIF bid the provisional site identified was the council owned land to the East of Baden Powell way adjacent to the proposed East of Biggleswade Village. Further detailed feasibility studies will now be undertaken to identify the best location to meet the growth in the area.
When and where are the 3,000 new homes going to be built?
12 housing sites have been identified in Biggleswade and the surrounding area which have the potential to provide approximately 3,000 new homes. 5 of these sites already have outline planning permission for 2,201 homes.
The remaining circa 750 homes have been identified as coming from 7 sites which are included in the draft Local Plan as proposed Local Plan allocations, subject to the outcome of the Examination in Public.
These homes will be delivered in phases over the next 15 years. All will be required to satisfy planning conditions.
How can local companies bid for work to support the delivery of this housing and infrastructure?
We encourage local and regional businesses to tender for public sector contracts in Central Bedfordshire. Tender opportunities can be found on our website.
We will be working with other organisations, including Network Rail and UK Power Networks to deliver the infrastructure.
We will be engaging with land owners and developers of the proposed housing in Biggleswade to discuss how local suppliers can be involved in these schemes.
When will we receive the money and by when does it need to be spent?
We will need to sign a Grant Determination Agreement which will outline the terms and conditions of the HIF grant, including receipt of funds. We expect to receive notification of the terms and conditions in the next few weeks.
It is anticipated that we will agree a spending profile and milestones, and will be monitored against these. Funds will be drawdown from MHCLG in accordance with the agree spending profile.
HIF funding needs to be spent by March 2023.
Will there be a future bidding round of HIF?
As far as we are aware, there are currently no plans for a second bidding round of HIF.
How will the expenditure be monitored?
We will be required to sign up to an Assurance Framework – this will be proportionate for the complexity and size of the Biggleswade programme. We await details of the Framework. In addition, we will put in place a robust governance and monitoring approach to ensure that the infrastructure in Biggleswade is delivered on time, within budget and to the required quality standards.
Why are the public sector paying for investment in power infrastructure?
UK Power Networks, the District Network Operator for East of England who are delivering the power infrastructure with National Grid, are regulated by OFGEM and not allowed to invest in infrastructure ahead of need. They can only respond to formal applications from developers. In the case of the Biggleswade area the solutions to reinforce power are now at a costly level where no individual developer could afford to pay for the extensive infrastructure upgrades required. The new infrastructure will also be meeting the needs of existing residents and businesses to draw additional power for things like Electrical Vehicles and other new modern technologies.
Will private utilities companies profit from public money?
We put forward this business case to MHCLG to invest in the power infrastructure to meet demands now and for the foreseeable future. The business case was extensive and had to demonstrate why the private sector could not fully fund this, and how we will recover the funding. National Grid are putting circa £15Million into the project too. While the public sector are paying for the rest upfront, we will be recouping the funding as developers come on board.
Page updated: 22 August 2019