EDS retail park scheme for Leighton to be reconsidered due to Water Meadows disagreement

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A scheme to bring a retail park to Leighton Buzzard is being reconsidered by Central Beds Council on Wednesday (May 24) as the developer is refusing to meet a condition to improve access to a countryside site.

Councillors on the development management committee voted through an outline application from EDS Holdings for the Camden site, off Grovebury Road, back in March after backing a retail park from Claymore for Grovebury Road at the same meeting.

But the EDS approval was subject to completion of a section 106 agreement with CBC, and referral to the Secretary of State as the scheme was a departure from the Development Plan.

And those CBC discussions have failed to reach full agreement on all four committee resolutions from the previous planning meeting, so the scheme is back in for debate – although planning officers are still recommending councillors give their approval.

Town and CBC Councillor Amanda Dodwell had asked that the developers be asked to open up access to Tiddenfoot Water Meadows as a condition of council approval, but EDS state this is not reasonable.

A CBC officer’s report ahead of Wendesday’s meeting says: “Whilst the applicant has failed to agree the provision of access across land also within their ownership to the Water Meadows and thereby providing a pedestrian link to the town, they have agreed to an alternative pedestrian link to the town centre via Grovebury Road and as such, it is considered that appropriate connections to the town centre could be realised and therefore our recommendation for approval remains the same.”

As well as providing that pedestrian link to the town centre via Grovebury Road at the western end of the retail park site, EDS has agreed to pay up to £25,000 towards highways improvements.

CBC members were also seeking a Bulky Goods limitation but EDS believe this is not necessary or justified given the retail impact assessment which did not identify any adverse impact upon the town centre.

However they have agreed to define the range of uses on several warehouses to “trade counter”, exclude food sales, and have a minimum floor space of 850sq metres for all units.

On the Camden site there are currently warehouses and commercial/industrial buildings in poor condition providing about 10 jobs, whereas EDS says its proposal will create 70.

EDS’s outline application brings six non-food retail units totalling 6,227sq metres, and five trade counter/motorist centre units totalling 1,121sq metres.

The application, which includes 324 parking spaces, states that the latter units would be “likely to accommodate” clients such as Screwfix, Tile Giant, Plumb Center, car mechanics, tyre fitters and associated workshops.

The town council opposed the EDS proposal due to the “significant retail impact” on the town centre and feared the Land South of High Street development would be put in jeopardy by the retail park.

Ahead of the meeting campaigner Victoria Harvey has pointed out that CBC’s recently published Community Plan Consultation shows that residents in Leighton Buzzard “by a strong margin” were against out of town retail parks, and wanted to see the South Side scheme progressed.

She added the council’s commissioned report by GVA on the South Side development highlighted the threat to the town centre of retail parks.

She said: “Cllr Nigel Young says in the introduction to the report that the Community Planning is about ‘giving you the opportunity to help shape the future of your community’. Will Cllr Young abide by his words in this report and will he and Cllr Dodwell listen to the overwhelming response of local people in Leighton Buzzard who oppose the out of town retail park rather than putting developers profit before the town?”

She added: “We are begging the councillors on the Development Management Committee to take into consideration the responses from CBC’s community consultation and CBC’s latest technical evidence base which says that this out of town scheme with open A1 consent is a threat to Leighton Buzzard’s town centre.”

If voted through on Wednesday, CBC will also need to approve the finer details of the development when EDS submits a reserved matters application.