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HAVE YOUR SAY! Universal planning a theme park in Bedfordshire

Updated: Feb 2

In December we launched our brand-new feature ‘HAVE YOUR SAY’. We choose a topical issue, compile a short, succinct questionnaire, distribute across our social pages, and wait for the results to come flowing in.

Theme Park

Universal has confirmed that it is planning to build a UK theme park on land just south of Bedford. Is this really likely to happen? Well, it seems that Universal are quite serious about it, a dedicated website has been launched and recently a letter from Universal has been delivered to local residents. You can read the letter here:

If the project goes ahead, it’s reported that the theme park could open in 2030.

So, what do you think? We were absolutely amazed at the response, we received over 1100 completed survey questionnaires, the results are fascinating…

Q1. How familiar are you with the proposed Universal Studios theme park project near Stewartby, Bedford?

Q2. On a scale of 1 to 5, how supportive are you of the idea of a Universal Studios theme park in this location?

Q3. Do you believe the theme park will positively impact local employment opportunities?

Q4. How concerned are you about potential traffic congestion on the east side of the M1 motorway due to the theme park?

For Q4, we also received lots of comments, a selection of these are provide here:

"The M1 is regularly congested most days at most times of day, so I am not sure how much difference it would make. There is already a lot of tourist attractions and amenities at junctions all along that stretch of the motorway."

"There are many roads that people can use around there without it being an impact."

"It has the potential to increase but hopefully measures can be put in place to ease."

"If the council planning dept works with the developers properly they should be able to mitigate this."

"Clearly some thought needs to go into a practical solution."

"Depends on how well integrated the motorway is."

"I am sure it will impact things but trust appropriate things will be put in place."

"Totally, the whole infra structure will have to change to allow this to go forward."

"Needs proper consideration with input from local community and parish councils."

"Since moving here 1.5 years ago it’s the worst place for traffic on thr M1 day or night and no matter what day! It can’t cope with any more traffic!"

"It’s always busy anyway so maybe a direct junction just for the theme park and making the old A421 road for the theme park?"

"There are good alternatives such as train could do parK and ride off M1 and also connect Wootton roundabout off A421."

"The road & rail infrastructure MUST be improved prior to construction starting

Definitely think j13 would need upgrading to slip roads straight onto the m1 avoiding the roundabouts"

Q5. Are you in favour of additional infrastructure improvements to mitigate potential traffic issues in the area?

For Q5, we also received lots of comments, a selection of these are provide here:

"Yes of course it will have to happen, however I’m not sure how that will impact on us leaving near by or the wildlife and county side."

"But depends on the nature of the ‘improvements!"

"It will devastate local green areas and wildlife."

"I have lived in area for 7 years and the traffic through village is terrible now."

"Works that have taken place already to alleviate congestion have not worked."

"The Clophill roundabout project has made some difficulties with travel but overall the project has been well managed and consideration given to maintaining traffic flow for most of the project during weekdays."

"You lie and never resolve, you have crushed Wootton infrastructure not there increased road traffic that the old lanes and roads can’t cope with, no medical centre, still portacabins, no dentistry!"

"Depends on impact to the surrounding area, its important not to impact nature and our day to day lives."

"As long as it doesn’t cause additional road closures and traffic whilst in the process of creating additional infrastructure."

Q6. To what extent do you think the theme park will affect traffic flow in the nearby towns and villages?

For Q6, we also received lots of comments, a selection of these are provide here:

"It's hard to say really. If there are steps taken to direct the traffic away from going directly through most part of the village or if something can be done to make it flow well, I can't see it being an issue. No different to our current big theme parks that run through villages etc."

"Network of small villages that get blocked very easily, if the M1 was to close or a rat run through the small villages."

"I think unless you know the area, most people will follow the satnav on the main motorway and A road routes."

"Although footfall for businesses will be better, more jobs more infrastructure."

"The small villages and hamlets in the wider surrounding area will be devestated with all the traffic. It will be appauling and will devestate wildlife."

"I just can't see how our roads will cope, having said that, I felt the same about Centreparcs and I've seen and heard of no problems there. It will be more employment for the area, but the majority will be low wage/minimum wage and that won't be good for our area."

"The location would be so near to major routes that it shouldn’t affect local village roads."

"We thought Center Parcs would cause traffic problems but it doesn't."

"Existing infrastructure design is appalling. Local planning officers can’t even get basic amenities like level crossings by schools right. This is an opportunity to invest to get great infrastructure and planning done right - but I have zero faith in local councils getting it right as their planning team’s are either inept or corrupt. There’s no other rational explanation for how abysmal their work is."

"Universal will make sure that their will be minimal impact on the villages. If anything the council needs to take on board the traffic flow of all residents now."

"I think this will be a very good thing for bedfordshire to gain it will provide so many people with jobs and it will be something fun to do that's local and not have to travel over a hour to arrive. Thumbs up from me."

"We are in Houghton Conquest which is just minutes from the proposed development. It's a small village with just one road through it but that road links the A6 to the B530 - where the park will be. We will be drowned in through traffic with major noise and transport problems."

"But having been to other Universal Parks in the USA they put in new roads and ensure local communities are minimally impacted in a negative way. A lot goes into the community relationship and support."

"Hopefully sufficient traffic amendments will be made to accommodate additional traffic at J13, widening of the A421 and direct access to prevent traffic circumnavigating through local villages."

"Most people will come via A421 bypass from either A1 or M1. The only problem area will be the Kempston exits as they are gridlock most days also the A6 via Great Denham into Kempston and out. Are also gridlocked. The A6 from Luton would also be affected. Also we only have a small services at Marston we would need a bigger one."

"The villages in this region and surrounding areas are massively impacted by sprawling housing sites which already are depleting our environment. The visual impact of something of this magnitude is massive. If you stand in Ampthill park you are much higher and the veiw is totality visible from a ten mile distance and equally visible from all the higher points like Chilterns and Sundon hills etc every possible method to hide this would without doubt need to be exercised if it is allowed."

"I’m sure appropriate steps will be put in place to cope. I am also aware that a train line runs to the proposed park entrance as an alternative way to get to the park. The benefits will outweigh the cons!"

"Bedfordshire councils are known frequently to make huge mistakes with road infrastructure. I suspect this proposed sight will be no different and before long the traffic will be chaos and road closures constantly due to 'improvements', will mean the roads will not cope with people just wanting to complete their daily commute. For example the A507 surrounding Arlesey - huge mistake, the road is worse than before and getting worse by the day since the so-called 'improved road layout' was introduced because of the massive new housing estate. Whatever concerns local people voice, the council will just go ahead and build whatever Universal tell them to, because the right people would have been paid to make it happen, regardless of local voices stating their concerns."

Q7. How important is it to you that the theme park development minimizes its environmental impact?

Q8. Are you worried about potential harm to local wildlife as a result of the theme park construction and operation?

For Q8, we also received lots of comments, a selection of these are provide here:

"I am a bit worried, because they throw so many housing estates up without a care but, I think if it's done in the right way and that can include or avoid some wildlife areas, it's not an issue. No matter what we build will always have an impact in some way, we can't completely avoid it. But I think if it's kept in mind and you cna work to harm it as little as possible that's good."

"Where they are planning to build wildlife dosn't really go on that land, on the outskirts yes maybe but I don't believe it will affect the wildlife... I mean after all it was once where the chimneys stood."

"Extremely Worried but is no different to all the new housing estates that are being built at the moment."

"Companies as big as these will have things in place to avoid impacting the local wildlife, the land being used is wasteland anyhow and looks terrible."

"Lots of the local green areas have been already been replaced by housing, with little thought about the environment. Unfortunately the local councils are only interested in housing and development, they don’t care about the damage they cause, and there are zero plans to try and replace the natural habitats they destroy."

"The land is brown field and a disused brick works. The environmental impact of the massive house building and logistics park being built locally on agricultural land in my opinion has more of a negative impact on the environment."

"If it isn’t a theme park it would be housing I would rather something that brought money and jobs into the local area than more housing where our doctors, schools, parking and shopping has been a nightmare and extremely under pressure."

"There is a lake and a whole stream of wildlife less than a mile from there the proposed theme park will be. On top of the landfill site, it would destroy the wildlife as well as the walk around Stewartby lake which is now pleasurable and used frequently by the elderly, students of the college and local dog walkers will become very undesirable for everyone in the surrounding area."

"There is a lot of wildlife around Stewartby lake and Marston Vale nature reserve which could be impacted so talks should be had with Marston Vale and work with them to plant extra trees around the park and area as well."

"It’s being built on an old industrial site, not green belt, will create jobs and entertainment, great!"

"Having read what Universal intend to do and how other parks are set out I don’t think the impact on the environment will be as bad as if the land was developed for housing! There’s always going to be some impacts."

Q9. Do you think Universal Studios should actively contribute to local environmental conservation efforts?

Q10. On a scale of 1 to 10, how well do you believe the project developers have communicated their plans and potential impacts to the community?

Section 11 asked for any additional comments at the end of the survey, a selection of these have been added below:

"Both myself and my son are incredibly excited and the prospect. I know plenty of people won't be, but honestly, some people aren't happy with anything. This is such a huge thing for the UK, and for all of us living right by it. My only concern now is how long it is going to take... I have never been to any other resort so, I'm getting impatient haha. It's going to be amazing and I truly hope the vast majority are looking forward to it also."

"I think it will be good to have something new in the area. Some people will be against as they dislike the thought of change . But it will bring jobs for people and also something for people to go to and not have to travel hours away for it. You're going to win some and loose some as its one of them things not every will be in the some boat."

"It such a great asset to the community, strongly recommend."

"This will create jobs for years to come and will increase tourism and production to the area. There will of course need to be better Infrastructure and conservation applied but the end result will bring a huge boom to the area!"

"We would LOVE this theme park in Bedford. We live 20 mins out and it would be amazing to be so close to a theme park."

"This is a very positive development which will bring opportunities, investment and jobs to the area. It will also be a good local attraction for residents to enjoy. Everyone should get behind this plan."

"This should have an increased push on the Wixams railway station to support the pull to the area. Easy rail links would reduce the near for transport by car mitigating traffic numbers."

"This will bring massive employment to the area and beyond and can only be a positive for Bedford and surrounding areas."

"I think it's a fantastic idea for the theme park. Great for employment, new facilities and also investment in the community. I live in Harrowden Green which is the Wixams development off Ampthill Road. My kids go to school in Ampthill and its already a bit of nightmare journey at times. If the infrastructure is right this could be amazing. If they take traffic through Ampthill not great. Fingers crossed they get it right."

"I thought this was just an ‘idea’ at the moment and was being investigated by Universal. I am in favour of this development for bringing wealth and prestige to the area. There may be some negative impact with traffic but I hope the development will provide S106 money to improve infrastructure to manage this."

"I think it’s an amazing opportunity for the county. It will bring thousands of visitors to the area, which will boost the local economy and provide a huge number of jobs. I’ll be very disappointed if it doesn’t go ahead."

"I think residents and the people of Bedford need to sit back and think of how this will be great for jobs and investments that will happen and to let Bedfords heart start pumping life again."

"People worried about Centre Parc but that seems to have had a positive impact employment wise without too many traffic issues."

"At one end of Stewartby will be a film studio and the other end a theme park. Road access is already limited. Stewartby is a Heritage area which doesn’t allow for changes to properties but would allow a theme park? M1 is already a nightmare for traffic. It will increase jobs in the area most likely."

"infrastructure in place and with the need for employment from additional and innovative sources. This could really benefit the local economy and region overall - let's hope the Nimby lobby don't mess it up."

"Will be the best thing that has ever happened in the uk and Bedford as tourism will be great!"

"It would cause mayhem and it should not even be considered, there is a college right next door to the proposed site, it would disrupt education massively for years, with the building and then the constant running of the park. It is inconsiderate of everyone in the local area. Bedfordshire does not have the infrastructure to accommodate the theme park and the amount of traffic and tourists it would bring. The impact on the employment status and the economy of our country would be astronomical but other factors prove it would be not sustainable as well as a very big disturbance of the local community."

"Houghton Conquest roads will not be able to cope with all the extra traffic which will use our village 2 country/village roads as a cut through from the A1/A421/A6 to this unwanted joke of a entertainment monster and the noise created will be totally unacceptable in the village."

"There is a strong heritage to the area with the brickwork so to help preserve this history there should be an area dedicated to this, like a construction zone for kids with the background is pictures of the brick chimney and history plaques showing the history of the area."

"I live in Stewartby and from a resident's pov it isn't ideal, it isn't what you move to a village for, however that is a NIMBY pov and I can actually see that with huge investment into infrastructure, particularly roads/trains, it will be a huge benefit to the area."

"I think it be amazing for Bedford in so many ways. I hope all people are allowed to get involved eg local trades, local traditions and local independent shops not chains are allowed in. Even accommodation while building, use local peoples houses not just big hotel chains. I also hope there will be a big education programme from the start. Taking on apprentices from local area. Getting schools involved in designing - STEM, painting artwork for the park, environmental etc time capsules, such an amazing opportunity."

"I think it would be a really beneficial thing. It will provide thousands of jobs for local people. Visitors to the park will spend money in the surrounding areas which will bring significant benefit to local businesses and help regenerate Bedford and the local area which is tired and run down and really could do with significant investment. If improved transport links are provided this will also be great for local people."

"There has been much on social media about this theme park but nobody seems to be considering the noise pollution we will all suffer from this. Do we all want to be sitting in our gardens in the summer and hearing screams from the rides? No!"

"Bring it on. This area really needs it and the location is ideal."

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