‘Don’t let them turn Leighton into another Dunstable’

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A “crucial” chance to shape the future of Leighton Buzzard next week is an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed, South Beds Friends of the Earth has said in an appeal to residents.

The Community Plan Consultation for Leighton Buzzard takes place on Wednesday, February 1, between 2.30pm and 7.30pm at the Library Theatre and will cover issues such as where new housing, employment, transport, retail, and green spaces are situated.

The results will feed back into the eventual Local Plan which once adopted will see all new developments judged against it. The consultation at the library is also open to the people of Eggington, Hockliffe, Heath and Reach and Battlesden.

Ken Barry of South Bedfordshire Friends of the Earth said: “This is a crucial consultation for the future of Leighton Buzzard as it informs the Local Plan on issues from housing to transport to green spaces and town centre shops.

“This is an excellent opportunity to let CBC [Central Beds Council] know what local people are concerned about. Do we want clothes shops and wider range of retail on the South of the High Street or just more housing and offices in the town centre.

“There is a risk that CBC’s plans are pushing Leighton Buzzard to become like Dunstable that has the worst of both worlds with an out-of-town retail park with just two clothes/ footwear shops and a town centre with empty units and boarded up shops.

“If we do want more clothes shops etc. in the High Street we need to let the council have our comments. The other issues in the consultation are transport, what types of housing, environment etc.

“So this is the time to let CBC know whether we want regular reliable buses to the town centre and station or big bus cuts so that more people have no alternative but to drive thus increasing congestion.”

Mr Barry added: “On the environment, now is the time to let the council know that we support renewable energy and we want Leighton Buzzard to invest in our own renewable energy locally.

“Investing in renewable energy makes Leighton Buzzard attractive to good, forward-looking employers and also helps the UK create its own energy independence rather than relying importing fossil fuels.

“This is crucial consultation as when the local plan is passed then developers will have to comply with it. One of the key reasons that Valley Farm was turned down is that it has never been considered as a suitable place for building houses in all the drafts of the local plans of both Central Bedfordshire Council and Aylesbury Vale District Council.”

At a November public meeting in Leighton Buzzard on climate change Andrew Selous MP urged local people to get involved in the local plan as it would have such an influence on the local area and it could have a very positive influence for the local environment.

He said this week: “I would strongly encourage people to contribute. I know local residents care deeply about the town and this is your chance to influence its future.”

Back in 2015 CBC was told by planning inspector Brian Cook that its Local Plan was not fit for purpose and advised the authority to withdraw it rather than have it rejected.

Mr Cook claimed that CBC’s co-operation with Luton Borough Council over development strategy “fell short of the required level”.

CBC fought back and took the case to the High Court, where permission for a judicial review to Mr Cook’s decision was rejected.

CBC ultimately withdrew its development strategy and has started drafting a new Local Plan.