A blueprint for growth in Central Bedfordshire over the next 20 years includes Leighton Buzzard’s Eastern Relief Road but gives no further clues on when it might finally be constructed.
The road, promised as part of the housing development to the east of Leighton Buzzard, would join Heath Road with Stanbridge Road, and is included in Central Beds Council’s Draft Local Plan which has just been put out to public consultation.
Back in 2011, Leighton-Linslade Town Council went on record to say it was furious that the route had been changed and now stopped short of joining with the A505 Leighton Bypass. A project to improve congestion by building a park and ride facility was also scrapped.
Then town clerk Pat Kingsnorth said at the time: “The town council is insistent that the eastern relief road goes to the bypass and not finish at Stanbridge Road. All that extra traffic coming down Stanbridge Road is going to cause terrible gridlock to the town centre.”
This week a Central Beds Council spokesman said: “The Eastern Relief Road for Leighton Buzzard is a development-led scheme and so the timeline for delivery is determined by a section 106 agreement.
“The housing build numbers will be the trigger that determines when and what lengths of relief road will be delivered.”
The Draft Local Plan also sets out the options for growth in the area over the next 20 years, such as the number of homes and jobs that the council proposes to deliver.
Leighton Buzzard, which has seen its fair share of housing in recent times, has not been earmarked for major new home building.
The council is planning for a range of between 20,000-30,000 new homes, with options including creating new villages near Aspley Guise, Marston Vale and east of Biggleswade; a new market town near Tempsford; expanding north and west of Luton, and east of Arlesey; as well as some small growth in existing villages.
To create the Draft Local Plan, the council pulled together 15 new technical studies to guide their overall strategy for growth. This included the Call for Sites exercise last year. This was an opportunity for agents, landowners and developers to submit land that they believed could be used to meet future demand for homes and jobs.
As a result, 851 sites (including 46 employment ones) were submitted. These sites were whittled down by the council to around 150 after assessment. Draft site allocations won’t be publicly consulted on until next spring though – at this stage the council is consulting on the broader growth location options.
The Draft Local Plan also anticipates 24-30,000 new jobs coming to the area, through both existing and new strategic employment sites. It also includes proposals to increase public access to the countryside by creating more country parks, as well as play parks and open spaces within the proposed developments.
Speaking about the Draft Local Plan, Cllr Nigel Young, Executive Member for Regeneration, said: “Central Bedfordshire’s location and excellent connectivity means that we have high growth pressures, and this is the reason we need to plan for growth. We are asking for the public’s views on how we deliver that.
“We’ve already undertaken lots of public engagement through consultations and 15 drop-in Community Planning events that we held across the area. This prior community engagement wasn’t statutory, but we wanted to go above and beyond in order to get the plan right. As part of this latest stage of formal consultation on the Draft Local Plan document, we will also be holding five more public drop-in sessions across the area, as well as an event where we will speak to Town and Parish Councils.
“Producing a Local Plan is a priority for the council, otherwise we are at risk of government intervention and a resulting loss of control of the process.
“We need to retain control over where development should be located, rather than it being delivered in an ad hoc way as a result of speculative development, sometimes without sufficient benefit to our local communities. Crucially, a plan also allows us to influence government to secure investment in the local infrastructure that we need.”
The public consultation runs from July 4 to August 29. The public can read the full plan, watch the video, and submit feedback at www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/localplan. Copies of the document are available to view at local libraries or the council offices (Chicksands and Dunstable).
During the consultation, the council will hold a number of public drop-in-sessions for any questions. These will be held from 2pm – 8pm on:
11 July, Marston Sports Pavilion
20 July, Biggleswade Town Council Office
26 July, Arlesey Village Hall
7 August, Sandy Village Hall
9 August, Caddington Sports and Social Club.
The council will consider all of the comments received and publish the next version of the Local Plan for comment in spring 2018.