Wixams (or The Wixams) is a new town and civil parish located in Bedfordshire, England, which has been under construction since early 2007. It is expected to become the third largest settlement in the Borough of Bedford after Bedford itself and Kempston, and one of the largest new settlements founded in England since the British new towns movement of the first twenty five years after World War II. Part of the site is also in Central Bedfordshire.
The 750 acre (3 km²) brownfield site for the Wixams development is located just to the south of Bedford, and was formerly known as the Elstow Storage Depot; and in World War II, as ROF Elstow. The provisional name of the development during the early planning stages was Elstow Garden Villages, (Elstow is a nearby village famous for its association with John Bunyan). The name 'Wixams' derives from Wixamtree, an ancient hundred near to where the new town is situated. (It is actually in the ancient hundred of Redbournestoke.)
Wixams is planned to ultimately consist of four "villages", each with its own centre, built around a town centre. It is expected to have 4,500 homes, and is likely to provide housing capacity for people who work in Bedford, Milton Keynes and London. In addition, there is an intention to develop employment in Wixams itself.
Facilities which are scheduled to be constructed include:
- Over a million square feet of office space
- Three lower schools (ages 5–9), two middle schools (9–13) and one upper school (13–18)- on hold due to Bedford Borough most likely moving to two tier.
- A primary healthcare centre- on hold until resident numbers reach 15,000 to 20,000.
- A town park- likely to include an Asda
- A range of shops
- A library
- A sports hall
- Over 300 acres (1.2 km2) of parkland and public open space, featuring a series of lakes, water bodies and wetland areas. These are a legacy of the former open cast mineral extraction on the site, which lies within the Forest of Marston Vale, a brickmaking and gravel extraction area with many exhausted pits.
Gallagher Estates is the master development company for the whole of Wixams. The first area or village under development is known as Lakeview (previously Village One). Developers include Bloor Homes, Careys New Homes, Lagan Homes, Leech Homes, Miller Homes and Taylor Wimpey.
The first residents of Lakeview moved into the area in early 2009, but construction work has proceeded more slowly than forecast due to the late 2000s recession and the consequent state of the UK housing market. In August 2009, the first housing association properties were let to residents in Lakeview, with shared-ownership homes also becoming available. The first lower school in Wixams, Lakeview Lower School opened in September 2009.
In late summer 2010, the Wixams Community Group was formed from residents who have moved to the new town. Site preparation works for the Village Two and Village Three areas of Wixams commenced in early 2011. Between February 2011 and December 2015, the Reverend Tim Jackson served as the first ecumenical church minister. Funded by the Bedfordshire Ecumenical Committee, Tim represents the Anglican, Baptist, Methodist and United Reformed Christian denominations. However, there is no church building at present. After Tim's departure, church activities continue in the form of Sunday Worship, Messy Church and Little Stars.
In January 2012, HRH Sophie, Countess of Wessex made an official visit to Wixams. The princess visited Lakeview Lower School, and met Dave Hodgson (Mayor of Bedford Borough), Andrew Slack (High Sheriff of Bedfordshire), Tony Gallagher (chairman of Gallagher Estates) as well as pupils and staff from the school.
Bedford Borough Council reported that over 600 homes were occupied in Lakeview by the end of 2012. A village hall has been constructed in Lakeview and officially opened in April 2013. The hall is managed by members of a local community trust and Company limited by guarantee.
Village One of the Wixams development (Lakeview) was previously part of the Wilshamstead civil parish, with residents entitled to vote in elections for Wilshamstead Parish Council (Wilshamstead is the parish name for the village of Wilstead, which is located on the other side of the A6 road). However, in April 2015 Wixams civil parish was created, with the first elections to the parish council on 7th May. The as yet undeveloped parts of Wixams currently lie in the Stewartby and Houghton Conquest civil parishes.
Wixams forms part of the Mid Bedfordshire constituency, represented in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom Parliament. The current MP for the Mid Bedfordshire constituency is Nadine Dorries, who is a member of the Conservative Party.
Wixams is adjacent to the A6 trunk road, part of which was diverted to a new section of dual carriageway in 2007/08 to make space for the development. Wixams railway station is a planned new railway station to be built in Wixams, which will be an intermediate stop on the Midland Main Line between Bedford railway station and Flitwick railway station. The station was initially planned to be built by 2015, but continued wrangling over funding for the project has meant that the date has slipped.
The first primary school for the settlement has been constructed. Lakeview School opened to pupils in September 2009. The architectural firm Mouchel designed the school, and the Morgan Sindall Group constructed the building. The school has been controversial, as the first headteacher was appointed months before construction of the school began. The school had seven pupils on its roll when it opened.
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