UPDATED: Will both Leighton retail park bids get approval this week?

Claymore retail park for Leighton Buzzard
Claymore retail park for Leighton Buzzard

Rival bids to bring retail parks to Leighton Buzzard go before Central Beds Council tomorrow (Wednesday, March 1) and councillors are being advised to give both the thumbs up.

The first plan, from the Claymore Group, already has outline approval from CBC dating back to November 2013 for a £15m Grovebury Road scheme. That was for a garden centre, four smaller warehouse units for bulky goods retailers, and a standalone drive-thru restaurant. Now Claymore is seeking the full go-ahead on more detailed aspects of the development, including the appearance and scale of the buildings, landscaping and site layout.

The retail floor space has been cut from 8,037sq metres to 7,258sq metres, with the restaurant/café/public house building replaced by a drive-thru restaurant, and the garden centre building reclassified as “outdoor projects retail”.

The second scheme, submitted by EDS Holdings in May last year, seeks a rival shopping park at the Camden site, off Grovebury Road.

On the Camden site there are currently warehouses and commercial/industrial buildings in poor condition providing about 10 jobs, whereas EDS says its proposal would create 70.

EDS’s outline application seeks six non-food retail units totalling 6,227sq metres, and five trade counter/motorist centre units totalling 1,121sq metres.

The application, which includes 324 parking spaces, states that the latter units would be “likely to accommodate” clients such as Screwfix, Tile Giant, Plumb Center, car mechanics, tyre fitters and associated workshops.

Leighton-Linslade Town Council is opposing the Claymore plan because it says the detailed plan is “materially different” to the outline permission.

Members had concerns about the proposed size of the retail units, car parking configuration and reduction from 318 to 277 spaces, landscaping, and the nature of the food outlet. Fears were also expressed regarding traffic movement and the potential impact on the town centre.

And the town council is also opposing the EDS proposal.They feel the loss of employment land is unacceptable and fear the Land South of High Street development would be put in jeopardy by the retail park. If approved by CBC the scheme would still have to be backed by the Secretary of State due to the change of use of the land.

Coupled with the Claymore scheme, the town council feel it would mean an oversupply of non-food retail units to the detriment of the town centre.

CBC’s Highways department has also been debating with EDS possible congestion at the junction of Stanbridge Road and Lake Street, but feels this can be resolved with EDS ahead of the meeting.

The CBC planning department’s report on EDS states: “There is concern that out-of-centre retail parks will have a similar effect to what the White Lion Retail Park is having on Dunstable town centre. However it is acknowledged that Leighton-Linslade is a more vibrant and healthy town centre serving a different population and many visitors access it regularly.

“To address this it would be appropriate for there to be a condition put on place restricting the minimum size of the units, as suggested by the applicant, so as not to compete with the town centre.”

The Greensand Trust is also opposing the EDS scheme. It states: “The proposal is located in an area of high landscape value, as highlighted in the Leighton-Linslade Green Infrastructure Plan (2014) and we do not see sufficient evidence of appropriate landscaping elements to mitigate such a significant proposed development as this.

“The views across the meadows are extremely important locally, and they and their setting must be protected.”

A petition containing 36 signatures has been received from the Leighton Buzzard Market Traders Association which raises objection due to loss of trade.

CBC planners state: “It is considered that the type of scheme being proposed is largely complementary to the existing town centre offer and planned town centre investment.”

However, CBC’s consultant GVA’s report on the Land South of High Street development admits the two retail parks could cast doubts on the town centre regeneration plans.

It states: “There are threats to the retail success of Leighton Buzzard in the shape of the out of town schemes, the two developments mentioned above need to be carefully considered.

“If open A1 consent is granted at the scheme to the south of the town this will sweep up any major multiple retail fashion brands who would prefer a rectangle box with surface car parking rather than a constrained town centre site. It is apparent from our market testing that a number of the well-known multiples are awaiting the outcomes of planning in this regard.”

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