The likely future use of Leighton Buzzard’s police station site has been uncovered four months after Central Beds Council announced it was buying the land for nearly £1m.
The LBO has discovered that the council has appointed consultants to draw up an application for outline planning permission for a care home on the Hockliffe Road site.
In a document which invited tenders for the consultancy work, the council stated it hopes to “achieve a successful and acceptable planning permission as soon as possible”.
It stated: “The council has recently purchased the police station site at Hockliffe Road and extends to 1.11 acres. The council is looking to achieve planning permission for a 60 bed care home on the site.”
One LBO reader said CBC’s intended use of the land had been kept “very quiet”.
She said: “From a personal point of view this is bad news as the site overlooks my garden and home but from a local of Leighton this is a concern as they will demolish the old courthouse which is a historical part of Leighton Buzzard. We understood there was a covenant on this building.
“Also it looks like they are trying to make an entrance to the site on Vandyke Road where the congestion with parked cars is already at breaking point.
“The entrance they are looking at is small and located between two residential homes, I really don’t understand how they think that will work.”
A CBC spokesman confirmed this week to the LBO that the council has a programme of improving accommodation options for older people.
She said: “As part of this programme we are proposing to develop a new care home on the old police station site, however no decision has been made.
“The council has appointed agents Barford and Co to develop the proposals, which will be subject to planning approval and public consultation.
“Barford and Co will be holding a public exhibition on the Hockliffe Road site on March 23 between 4pm and 7.30pm so that members of the public can find out about the proposals and give their feedback early in the process.”
She added: “The search we undertook when we bought the site did not reveal any covenants that would restrict this development.”
Leighton’s mayor Steve Cotter welcomed the news.
Cllr Cotter said: “I think that the 60 bed care home proposal by CBC is a good idea and will be greatly beneficial to the town.
“CBC will be attending the planning and transport committee meeting on March 22 at 7.30pm to make a presentation on the proposal if people wish to learn more about it.”
Leighton Buzzard Police Station’s future has been the subject of speculation for more than a decade, with the Beds Police and Crime Panel reporting in 2013 that only 20% of the building was being used by the force.
Records show Bedfordshire Police came into being in 1840 and that Leighton Buzzard Police Station was built in 1855 for £863 to house the sergeant and four constables stationed there (for a town of 6,000 people). Petty sessions were held on alternate Tuesdays in 1864. The court house eventually closed in 2000.
It was back in November last year that the LBO revealed CBC’s £930,000 purchase of the police station.
The council agreed to temporarily lease the building back to Beds Police for £1 until a planned transfer of officers to the town’s fire station in Lake Street comes to fruition. That move is expected to be complete by November.
The sale of the police station, along with the shared fire station base, are part of Police and Crime Commissioner Kathryn Holloway’s plans to bring visible policing back to the town. There are also plans to re-open an enquiry office in the town, based in the Ambulance Station on Bassett Road.
PCC Holloway said last year: “I am absolutely delighted that this sale has gone ahead. From a policing point of view the station was in completely the wrong location in view of the way Leighton Buzzard and crime had developed.
“We will now have officers based right in the heart of the centre of the pubbing and clubbing culture, and right alongside the high street.
Central Bedfordshire Council’s Executive Member for Corporate Resources, Cllr Richard Wenham, also said back in November: “Central Bedfordshire is purchasing the police station site in Leighton Buzzard. As a council we have commitments both to the future regeneration of the town and to provide a wide range of services within it, so this strategically positioned site will have real advantages.”
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