Retail parks face green light
A controversial scheme for two retail parks in Leighton, which have split the community, are being backed by planners, it is revealed this week.
The news is a major blow to High Street traders who have led a vigorous campaign to block the adjoining Grovebury Road developments for fear that the shopping malls will destroy town centre shopping.
The plans - by rival developers Claymore and Barwoods - go before Central Beds Council’s development management committee on February 13.
Both outline schemes are being recommended for approval but councillors do not have to follow their lead.
If the plans are pushed through they will still have to go up to Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, for a final decision.
At present national guidelines state that town centres must be put first before allowing out of town developments.
But both developers argue that future plans for Leighton town centre - at Bridge Meadow and behind the High Street, will not allow for large units selling bulky goods.
A planner’s report to the committee says: “In general terms the Retail Impact Assessments submitted in support of the applications indicate that Leighton continues to perform well and overall is a vibrant and healthy centre. These conclusions are in line with the council’s own retail studies.”
The report added that the retail parks would complement planned development in the town which is aimed at smaller units, specialist, fashion and eating destinations.
“The proposals, on their own or together, would be unlikely to impact on planned town centre investment given that they have different target markets.”
But it is recommended that if the schemes go ahead then there would be strict controls as to what goods could be sold - in order to minimise damage to existing town centre traders. The developers will also have to come up with substantial Section 106 payments totalling nearly £1million - which will be used to improve the High Street.
Claymore’s outline scheme includes an anchor DIY unit, four smaller units plus a food unit. Names which have already expressed an interest include Starbucks, Burger King, Wickes, Pets at Home and Benson for Beds.
Barwoods’ scheme also includes a DIY anchor unit plus eight further units and space for a pub/restaurant and a drive-thru.
Both plans have met opposition from the town council, neighbours and Friends of the Earth. A protest petition with 72 signatures has been submitted along with 144 forms from a poll conducted by traders, with 136 against the plan. Two letters of support have been submitted to the council along with a supporting petition signed by 115 people.
The LBO’s own poll came down 55 per cent against the retail parks.
Traders’ campaigner Tom Shattock said this week: “It’s absolute madness. They are intending to ignore all these people who are opposed to it - whatever happened to localism? Community involvement is supposed to be taken on board.
“This will have a terrible adverse effect on the town centre.” Mr Shattock, who runs T & K Furniture, in Hockliffe Street, urged people to write to MP Andrew Selous in protest.
For more on this story see next week’s great new look LBO.
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Weather for Leighton Buzzard
Wednesday 19 June 2013
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