Tenants up in alms about plans

Threatened wall and fire engine house
Threatened wall and fire engine house

TENANTS in Leighton’s historic almshouses are leading a campaign to head off controversial plans to demolish part of a listed boundary wall to provide access to a proposed development behind their homes.

The elderly residents of the almshouses in North Street are furious over a move by developers to take most of the garden from the end house to build an access road to a field behind the properties where a plan has been submitted to put up ten houses, five flats and garages.

The land presently houses a Victorian building which was used, in the 1880s, to garage the town’s fire engine, The site was also, for many years used for a small market garden business but it is now designated as development land.

This week Leighton-Linslade Town Council voiced their opposition to the scheme when the demolition of the boundary wall and housing development went before its planning committee. They backed the tenants’ arguments that the wall is part of a listed building and that access would be dangerous and unsuitable out into busy North Street. At the moment the site lies behind a smnall dirt track between the almshouses and The Wheatsheaf pub.

Jennifer Bewick, 63, whose garden is in the firing line, said: “They want to take nine-tenths of my garden which is what I really furious about. I’ve been doing the garden since I moved in and now the trust, which owns the almshouses, says that the garden was never mine but they’ve never sent anyone else to look after it.”

In a letter to the council Ms said: “Personally I will lose the amenity of a garden entirely. As they intend to have the access road three feet from the side of my house, privacy will be non- existent and the traffic and the noise will, obviously, always be horrendous.

“One of the aspects that really worries all of us is safety. The very nature of an almshouse means the tenants will be elderly. I am young in this row and I am 63. Our safety will be compromised by these plans as it will be easy to gain access to the back of our properties.”

Fellow almshouse tenant Elaine Davies said of the planning applications: “If they were ever passed the results would have a severe impact on our lives and change an area of Leighton Buzzard that has historical importance forever.

“We appreciate that the land in question has, at some point, to be developed but what has been proposed is beyond belief and clearly a case of cramming as many properties into one space as possible - this is illustrated by the fact that they have submitted plans to take 90% of one almshouse resident’s garden to get access.”

She said that tenants would lose their parking allocation behind their homes and vital parking spaces in front of the properties. The tenants also fear that building houses and/or flats close to their homes would lead to loss of light, security and privacy.

“Most of the residents of the almshouses are in their senior years,” she said. “And the purpose of these houses is to provide a safe, quiet and secure environment for both the vulnerable and elderly residents.

“In an already increasingly noisy area these proposed buildings will without a doubt contribute towards increasing the noise level. Initially, there will be construction and building work and its associated noise but later on there will be the permanent noise of children, cars and all the associated noise that comes from a housing estate.”

The scheme will be decided by Central Beds Council.

A spokesman for Leighton-Linslade Town Council said a major concern for councillors was access to the site onto North Street and prefered an alternative of Baker Street.