Opinions were divided as plans to transform empty offices into a nursery near to Leighton’s elderly community were supported by town councillors.
Protesting residents were left disappointed after Leighton-Linslade Town Council’s planning committee chose to recommend the use of an office block (Hockliffe Street’s White House Court) as a nursery that could provide 15 new jobs.
Councillor Ken Sharer, chairman of the planning committee, who abstained from voting, said: “I do not object to the nursery in principle but my main concern is the highways. I drive that way all the time so I can see for myself what it is like.
“It is the traffic that worries me because that whole area is not suitable for high volume traffic; especially if there are going to be a lot of mums picking up their children and driving a bit too fast.
“It is a very beautiful building and if it does become a nursery it will be a super one because there is nothing wrong with the proposal but residents are very concerned about the traffic.
“When we voted to recommend the proposal to Chicksands I looked at the residents’ faces and they were glaring, they were not happy at all, which I can understand because it affects them. They are also concerned about noise because children do tend to scream at lunchtime when they are playing outside.”
However, a nearby resident claimed the elderly community living in White House Court were under threat “thanks to a town council rush through of approval of planning changes.”
Ken added: “It was a good meeting and it was most certainly not rushed, I can assure you. As chairman I had told my friends that I would not be holding any strings back on this issue because it is very important.
“I think saying that is just an excuse because they lost their case and I understand that, but if anything we spent longer on it than we should have as I brought it forward in the agenda so residents could listen in full; the discussion and time for questions lasted 35 minutes.”
Councillors Mike Bishop and Stephen Cotter said the offices had been empty for a considerable time and that the nursery would create 15 jobs and provide a much-needed facility for working families.
They also added that if the offices were to be let the traffic movements were unlikely to be any worse than those arising from Mary Bassett School.
When it came to the vote the committee were split 3 to 2 in support of the proposal, but it was agreed to ask Central Beds Council to study the traffic projections carefully when considering the application.