Monday, 15 June 2009

A rave about Center Parcs (CP)

It is hard to believe that my eldest daughter is three and it is only now that we have had the CP experience. If I was honest I had been dreading it as we have always been independent travellers and my fear was that I would be entering a glorified Butlins or my perception of what that would be as I have never been on a Butlins holiday either. How wrong I was.

They have clearly really thought about how to make it a children-centred experience whilst ensuring that kids do not take over the place. In other words there was a good mix of people there - from young to old, from families to couples to groups of friends. One of the touches which I loved was the fact that it was so safe because no cars are allowed on the site after people have unloaded on arrival at their accommodation. That meant that my three year old and almost two year old could drive their bike and red tractor on the roads and paths in complete safety.

There were two particular highlights for me and they were these. On the last night we went to the children's disco which was from 7 til 8.30pm. The girls loved dancing with us and each other. They were particularly taken by their special drinks - water in coke cups with lids and straws and we enjoyed a very reasonably priced cocktails. The disco ends promptly at 8.30 and there is a half hour gap until the adult one starts at 9pm - plenty of time to get the kids home to bed.

The other luxury for me was a three hour spa. An afternoon without the children when I could just relax and enjoy all the different experiences Aqua Sana had to offer. I even received a free face masque whilst I was there. At the end of my session, I felt like a new woman and even better I had the bare bones of a workshop idea that I am planning to do with my fellow co-active coach, Beth Follini.

So if you have kids and you have never had the Center Parcs experience then give it go! We all had a great break for four days and I am sure you will too!

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Keep East of Luton Green

Luton and Beds Council propose to build 5,500 house in North Herts Countryside. Apart from the fact that Hertfordshire is a different county to Bedfordshire which is grounds enough to reject the proposal, if successful it will destroy an area of natural beauty (part of the Chilterns) if it goes ahead. I chose to live in a rural area because of the benefits gained from living in the country. Please stand up alongside me and put your objections to Mr David Atkinson, Regus House, 960 Capability Green, LUTON, Beds LU1 3PE or email him on To make it easy I have attached a list of reasons that you can cut and paste to formulate your own arguments below. The deadline for letters is 12 June.

  • There is not an infrastructure to support this development and putting it into
    place would require vast public funding.
  • The roads in the area are already heavily congested especially at peak times
    and cannot cope with the inevitable increase in traffic that such a
    development would bring.
  • Local services such as schools, hospitals, doctors surgeries are already
    overstretched and by no means able to cope with extra numbers. The
    quality of education and patient care would suffer.
  • Local services and amenities such as sports facilities and local shops
    are not suitable to cope with the extra numbers.
  • The Emergency Services are already overstretched and such a block
    of housing will put on additional pressure. The villages in Hertfordshire
    would suffer.
  • Luton would incur huge costs for its encroachment into Hertfordshire
  • The suggested bypass does not ease the road problems that it would
    create it would only add to the problems by bringing more traffic the
    Hertfordshire side of Luton.
  • The development would destroy for ever an area of Green Belt,
    Landscape Grade 1. It is a valley that is irreplaceable.
  • There would be a severe effect on the wild life of the area.
  • It takes away the “playground” of Luton, an area where people walk,
    enjoy fresh air and relax.
  • There are plenty of brown field site and empty properties located within Luton with the scope for development without breaching Green Belt
  • The Core Strategy states that “the Luton & Beds Infrastructure plan… will provide… attractive places to live and visit and a good quality of life” (s. 11.1). A 5,500 housing development that runs the length of a 4-lane highway, with the associated noise, will not have a good image nor offer quality of life, just the opposite. There are better options available, as I propose on the next page.
  • Section 11.4 expresses “support for… the protection of existing green spaces”. However, the EoL option would build 5,500 houses on Green Belt rated sensitivity level 1 by your own consultants, who conclude that development on this land is not recommended.
  • Section 12.1: “Luton and S. Beds… include large areas of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). This is a significant asset for the area… Accordingly no preferred sustainable urban extensions are proposed in the Chilterns AONB.” However, your preferred “Black Route” of the Northern Bypass dissects the Chilterns AONB running along the picturesque and historic village of Lilley. The proposal that this damage would be avoided by two ‘cut & cover’ tunnels (5.43) is derisory.
  • Your consultants’ assessment also deals with the historic importance of area L (east of Luton), including Iron Age and Roman sites likely to be of national importance and therefore a material constraint to the development.
    Your Core Strategy recognises (4.25) that the EoL housing and bypass proposals are on N. Herts territory and that the Core Strategy cannot allocate this land for development. N Herts is firmly against this development, so why are you persisting with it?
  • Your Core Strategy recognises (2.5) that there is already “congestion, primarily along the A505”. 5,500 houses - say 8,000 cars? - would make this far worse!

The Joint Committee does have a choice, there are other options available. One example is the West of Luton (WoL) scheme, which:

  • is also for 5,500 houses;
  • requires no public funding. Given the Core Strategy’s concern (8.5) that “significant additional funding would be needed beyond existing budgets”, this must be attractive;
  • is on lower grade Green Belt than the EoL housing scheme;
  • the road infrastructure is on existing B roads, not on virgin, productive farmland designated AONB;
  • incorporates social infrastructure including a 22,000 seat football stadium for Luton Town Football Club, a need identified in section 8.8 of the Core Strategy owing to the Club’s lease arrangements expiring in 2018.

Alternatively could the requirement for 5,500 homes not be met through a mix in Luton town itself of new medium / low rise apartments & houses plus recycling redundant factories / office buildings as apartments? This would address changing demographics -the social trend of many single people living on their own, and older people wanting to be close to shops and social amenities. It would reduce the urban sprawl encroachment onto Green Belt and protect our diminishing countryside. It would also greatly reduce the need for - and financial burden of - new roads as the current transport infrastructure would be on the doorstep of all these homes.
A full orbital road around Luton would draw traffic around the town – to the detriment of business in the town! Is this really what Luton Council wants?
An alternative solution to congestion on the east side of Luton is the widening of Vauxhall Way, which has land either side for easy widening, would link with the M1 via the roads just opened up to the Airport, and would not incur the cost of the ‘cut & cover’ tunnels north of Lilley in the Chilterns AONB.