‘Sympathy’ for residents struggling to park on new estates in Leighton

An example of the parking issues in Sandhills
An example of the parking issues in Sandhills

Residents bemoaning the lack of parking provision on new housing estates in Leighton Buzzard have drawn “sympathy” from a leading Central Beds councillor.

Narrow streets with few off-road parking spaces were part of the blueprint to encourage families to use public transport, but it has left locals struggling to park and emergency services with access concerns.

One man, who was visiting his son’s maisonette on Sandhills and was unable to leave after being blocked in, told the LBO: “Recent housing developments in and around the town have a lack of pavements and parking allocation within the new estates’ design.

“I am perplexed at why it now appears to be acceptable within the planning authority to engineer out such features within housing estates. “These places attract young couples who then have families as well as young families with children. In some situations the parking is becoming so ridiculous that emergency vehicles are not able to pass let alone the fact that there is insufficient allocation to each property. How can this be passed as an acceptable planning strategy is beyond me.”

Central Beds Cllr Nigel Young, Executive Member for Regeneration, blamed “draconian” Government restrictions in the past for the parking headache.

He said: “We are acutely aware of the issues around car parking provision for the new developments in the Sandhills area and we very much understand and sympathise with residents.

“Previous national planning policy set low parking standards as a way of encouraging the use of more sustainable modes of transport, such as cycling, walking and public transport over private car ownership.

“To try to achieve this modal shift, a specific and draconian restriction was applied by the then government which severely limited the number of car parking spaces provided within new developments.

“This led to the wholly inappropriate parking practices that we are now seeing in our towns and villages as these developments are built out.

“Government guidance has now changed and we are able to set our own local parking standards. The Central Bedfordshire Design Guide sets a minimum of two spaces for two-bedroomed properties and this increases for larger homes.”

He added that reduced parking standards were still appropriate in some locations close to transport hubs that the council was still keen to encourage the use of more sustainable modes of transport over the private car.”

He said: “However, the new Local Plan will address the problems that have been caused by insufficient provision in the past on new developments but, inevitably, there will be a time lag between schemes being permitted with this new guidance and being built out, so that the improvements can be seen on the ground.

“In response to accepted, general planning good practice, we have also sought to improve the overall character, design and safety of new residential developments by the introduction of shared surface arrangements. In appropriate quiet residential areas this can help to slow down traffic speeds and change driver behaviour and, with developments having a much higher parking provision, lead to a significantly more attractive environment.”

Back in 2008 the LBO reported on how Leighton Buzzard firefighter and watch commander Jason Hollamby warned that someone would die on Sandhills unless something was done to improve access. He added that the same problem affects neighbouring Billington Park.

The problem was highlighted by a house fire in Cooper Drive in the early hours when 999 crews were delayed because the pump could not get through narrow residential streets choked with parked cars.

A Beds Fire Service spokesman said this week: “The Fire Service is not a statutory consultee in the planning process in all but the very largest projects. We do try and monitor all three of Bedfordshire’s Planning portals to object or pass comment if we have concerns on new developments.

“We do have the opportunity to comment when a full planning application is submitted. Road access on new developments is to a specified national standard and we are not able to require anything above this bare minimum national standard.”

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