A care home on Leighton Buzzard’s police station site could look like this...

Proposed care home in Hockliffe Road
Proposed care home in Hockliffe Road

This is what the new care home lined up to be built on the site of Leighton Buzzard’s police station could look like if it gets the go-ahead.

Central Beds Council has submitted its outline planning application for the 1.11 acre Hockliffe Road site after completing the purchase of the land in November last year for £930,000,

A planning report by the council’s agents Barford&Co states: “The site has recently been purchased by Central Bedfordshire Council in order to advance their vision of re-providing existing care facilities to raise the physical standards of care homes it operates. It is considered that the site has potential for development and can provide well located, well designed, sustainable care home to meet an established local need.

“The proposal is to demolish the existing buildings on site and redevelop the site as a care home of up to 68 beds, up to three storeys in height an approximate floor area of 4,500 sqm, including associated day care facilities, suitable parking and landscaping. Access will be taken exclusively from Hockliffe Road.

“Whilst matters of access, scale, design and layout and landscaping are reserved for later determination, indicative plans have been provided which demonstrate how such a quantum of development can be adequately accommodated on site.”

The plans said a frontage onto Hockliffe Road had been preferable and was initially considered but was ruled out due to privacy, overshadowing and overbearing issues. “Respecting privacy, along with maintaining good levels of daylight and sunlight to neighbouring properties, has had a major influence in the indicative design,” says the application.

A public exhibition was held at the Hockliffe Road site in March to get feedback from locals.

As a result the scale of development has been reduced, with a decrease in beds from 75 to 68, and a lower roof height along the George Street side, directly addressing a concern from one resident.

CBC says there are currently 367 care home places in 7 homes across Leighton Buzzard. The application adds: “Demand has been modelled and is currently 252 places, forecasted to rise steadily over the period to 2030 to reach 376 places.

“Although the model suggests a current excess of capacity in Leighton Buzzard of around 115 places, monitoring of vacancy levels in care homes suggests that on aggregate they are operating at around 90% of their capacity with 36 vacancies.

“There is also a large demand from West Mid Beds which is currently experiencing a significant under supply of care home places. In this area, the model shows demand for 332 with a supply of 147 places. This demand is forecast to increase to 500 places by 2030. It is reasonable to assume that if not all, a large percentage of any excess capacity in Leighton Buzzard would be taken up by this demand.

“Whilst seeking to balance supply and demand for care home places in the area the council also has a desire to improve the overall quality of the accommodation and facilities provided by care homes. A significant aspect of improved accommodation quality is the provision of en-suite bathing and toilet facilities in each room which is now seen as a norm in new-build care homes but which are rare in homes constructed prior to 1990.”

Leighton Buzzard Police Station’s future has been the subject of speculation for more than a decade, with the Beds Police and Crime Panel reporting in 2013 that only 20% of the building was being used by the force.

Records show Bedfordshire Police came into being in 1840 and that Leighton Buzzard Police Station was built in 1855 for £863 to house the sergeant and four constables stationed there (for a town of 6,000 people). Petty sessions were held on alternate Tuesdays in 1864. The court house eventually closed in 2000.

After completing the purchase of the site, the council agreed to temporarily lease the building back to Beds Police for £1 until a planned transfer of officers to the town’s fire station in Lake Street comes to fruition. That move is expected to be complete by November.

The sale of the police station, along with the shared fire station base, are part of Police and Crime Commissioner Kathryn Holloway’s plans to bring visible policing back to the town. There are also plans to re-open an enquiry office in the town, based in the Ambulance Station on Bassett Road.