Standoff between landowner and developer in Houghton Regis leads to continued traffic lights woes
Single lane traffic lights on Sundon Road look set to stay after a heated dispute broke out between a local landowner and a developer.
Houghton Regis Management Consortium (HRMC) led by developer Land Improvements Holdings (LIH) is behind the construction of the Linmere development - some 5,000 new homes north of Houghton Regis.
HRMC appointed contractors Brehenys to carry out roadworks on Sundon Road last year, in order to create a new road and junction into the Linmere site.
However, landowner Roger G. Giugno 53, of Windy Willows Nursery, says that a filter drain has been removed near his property by contractors.
He also claims the new road surface is 400mm lower than it should be and cambers towards his farm; and adds that a tree root protection scheme has not been provided.
In protest, Mr Giugno has erected scaffolding on one of the verges on Sundon Road in an attempt to compel developers to address his concerns.
HRMC on the other hand, denies causing any flood risk to Mr Giugno's property and complains that he is illegally obstructing authorised roadworks.
Beds Police has reportedly attended the site several times regarding the dispute.
A spokesman from HRMC said: "At Linmere, we are conscious that the continued traffic light controlled single lane between the Sundon Road roundabout and Parkside Drive is causing a lot of inconvenience to the community.
"The discovery by utility companies of existing unknown and shallow cables extended the need for traffic lights to March 5, when it was confirmed that telecoms providers had completed their works.
"The lights should have been removed and normal two way traffic in place by that time.
"However, since then a property owner on Sundon Road has occupied Council Highways land, mainly the verges and two vehicle cross overs accessing private driveways and prevented the completion of the remaining works to Sundon Road.
"It is the actions of that owner that are the sole reason for the continued need for temporary traffic lights to control the ongoing restricted single lane traffic flow."
An email sent to Mr Giugno on February 24 from Central Beds Council confirmed that a filter drain had been removed near his property, but this was offset by multiple new drainage systems in Linmere as well as an attenuation pond.
She wrote: "The removal of the existing filter drain was raised during the technical audit and it was discussed that any run off from the west would be captured by the new pond up until Hub Street.
"The area where the existing filter drain was present has been remodelled, making the drain obsolete.
"There is no merit in reinstating this filter drain as the development north of Hub Street will capture and manage the runoff in this area.
"General topography of the area indicates a fall towards the east so the pond should capture runoff from your property or further west."
Mr Giugno alleges that HRMC is not adhering to plans for the attenuation pond.
He said: "LIH are refusing to uphold this obligation and CBC are failing to accept responsibility or to instruct LIH to uphold their obligations.
"I believe the executives are wielding their powers in favour of the wrongdoings of developers rather than use their position to do what is right and resolve this minor issue. We will be making a formal complaint in this regard.
"If CBC and LIH expect to force our business to close, people not be able to access their workspace or homes, customers not able to park or access the site, then what alternative do CBC and LIH propose at this stage?"
The situation has led to a stand-off from Mr Giugno, who says he is prepared to present his arguments if the matter goes to court.
He added: "It is not about improving my drainage but just to maintain drainage that has been in place for decades. CBC have already admitted as have Brehenys that historic ditches have been filled in and drainage has been removed along Sundon Road."
In response to Mr Giugno's concerns about drainage, a HRMC spokesman said: "The landowner’s wishes to improve his drainage through Council land are not connected to consortium roadworks on the existing public highway.
"The scaffolding has been placed illegally on Council highways land causing more delays to the roadworks and inconvenience to the community.
"The consortium has not removed any drainage pipes.
"The road design, including levels, are in line with Highways and CBC roads specifications. Part of the agreed Sundon Road enhancement scheme includes widening, straightening and levelling Sundon Road with the provision of new kerb lines and a new drainage scheme discharging directly to underground pipe infrastructure and not ditches.
"There is no conflict with the technically approved design and what the contractors are being prevented from constructing on site.
"We cannot make comments on the Council’s behalf but we understand they do not agree that Council tax payers should pay for the landowners drainage improvements."
In a final riposte, Mr Giugno stated the drainage issues warranted a "full investigation".
He said: "We do not disagree that HRMC are working to a design that CBC agreed, it doesn’t make the design correct but merely points the blame at CBC for incorrect designs and failing to take in to account historic drainage put in place by South Beds Council."
A Central Beds Council spokesman said: "CBC have authorised completion of these works and we are working closely with LIH to facilitate this."