Pressure builds over wait for Leighton shopping scheme

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Campaigners lobbying for a new retail development in Leighton’s town centre say Central Beds cannot afford any more delays.

Plans are for land south of the High Street to be transformed into a mixed shopping and leisure district.

Sites at Parkridge and Cattle Market were purchased last year, with buildings at Cattle Market demolished to make way for it. But so far, no timeline has been put in place.

Gennaro Borelli, chair of LB First, said: “We’ve been lobbying very hard for this development for a number of years since it initially came about and we’ve put forward a vision.

“We believe this would help anchor the footfall in the town centre. We’ve expressed particular concerns in council meetings about slippage in the time scale.”

In spite of slow progress, Central Beds states that it will be pressing ahead with the development in due course.

A spokesman said: “The timetable for redevelopment is dependent on broader market conditions and as a consequence the council is not able to impose or set a deadline for completion at this point.

“We are continuing to liaise with both potential retail occupiers and development partners towards bringing this much-anticipated redevelopment scheme forward as quickly as possible.”

Central Beds is also believed to be in discussion with a number of well-known high street names for the site, although these remain confidential.

Until development begins, the land will be used as a temporary car park from April.

Cllr Amanda Dodwell said: “The development of further retail space south of the High Street will provide greater variety and make Leighton Buzzard an even more attractive destination for shoppers.”

> Campaigners discussing the planned south of High Street development say it would help provide much-needed clothing shops in Leighton.

Victoria Harvey, who has campaigned against a planned retail park off Grovebury Road, said: “The latest survey of Leighton-Linslade residents by Central Beds has shown overwhelmingly that residents want more clothes shops in the town centre.

“More clothes shops would mean residents don’t have to go to Milton Keynes for shopping and an increased footfall in the town centre.”

Gennaro Borelli, of LB First, agreed the shops were needed. He said: “70% of people who shop out of town do so because they need clothing.

“This is why something like this would be perfect. It would make the town centre a lot more sustainable.”

Victoria Harvey also hit out at the slow progress of the new district. She said: “It was supposed to be delivered by 2016 yet Central Beds have not yet delivered it, their development strategy has dropped its policy supporting this development and suddenly everything is very quiet on the subject.”