‘Leighton Buzzard needs its own leisure centre’. That’s the message to Central Beds Council from one of its councillors who is concerned that money generated from housebuilding in the town is being spent in other parts of the district.
Independent Councillor Roy Johnstone fears Leighton Buzzard is being shortchanged as he claims Section 106 monies from developers is swallowed up into CBC’s general coffers.
Having seen Flitwick gain a new leisure centre, with one on the way too for Dunstable, Cllr Johnstone, says Leighton Buzzard’s growing population shouldn’t be missing out – claiming Tiddenfoot in Linslade is not sufficient to cope with the numbers moving into the area.
Referring to the Chamberlain’s Barn scheme [950 homes between Heath Road and Vandyke Road and Shenley Hill Road] where groundworks are currently being put in, Cllr Johnstone said: “My concern is Section 106 monies raised from this development, where is it going to go? Into Central Beds’ coffers, or is going to be spent entirely in Leighton Buzzard?
“It has to be entirely in Leighton Buzzard, as Leighton Buzzard does not have much in the way of leisure facilities. We don’t even have a leisure centre in Leighton Buzzard. It is in Linslade. Also traffic is not good, the roads are awful, our footpaths are in a terrible state.
“I want to make sure this money – and money from other ongoing developments in the town – doesn’t disappear into the coffers and ends up allocated to other areas, which we see happening time again and again.
“A lot of people will be moving into Chamberlain’s Barn. They need leisure facilities. With all these people in this side of town, then they need something to do.
“We are the capital town of Central Beds, where the council gets its main revenue and we are getting very, very little. Flitwick has had a leisure centre, and Dunstable is getting a new one.”
Cllr Johnstone, who quit the Conservatives in October because he says he felt unable to speak out on key issues, added that he had experienced the strain Tiddenfoot Leisure Centre was under.
He said: “I love to swim and do the gym. I am retired. There are an awful lot of people who are retired and shiftworkers who are around in the daytime. The last time I went down there, I went for a swim. I was told I couldn’t use it as the schools were using it. No doubt a lot of other people have found that.
“I don’t object to the schools using it, but when Tiddenfoot was built Leighton Buzzard and Linslade were much smaller. It’s very frustrating as they [schools] have it for a considerable amount of time.”
A spokesman for Central Beds Council pointed the LBO to an online link to the Chamberlain’s Barn S106 agreement, but failed to offer a comment on Cllr Johnstone’s call for S106 monies from local development being ringfenced for Leighton Buzzard.
That S106 documentation shows the agreement and timescales for facilities which were part of the Chamberlain’s Barn scheme, such as land for a lower school; a local centre comprising retail and community uses; informal open space and country park, incorporating allotments, orchards, new tree and shrub planting, and play areas.
It also shows that developers will start phase 1a of a new link road before 200 houses have been built, with other phases of the road triggered at 400 and 510 properties.
Money will also be coming CBC’s way for lower school provision: £433k (200 houses), £433k (300), £886k (600) and £886k (800). Contributions for middle and upper school provision are set at £1.355m (at 300 homes), £1.355m (600) and £1.355m (800).
CBC consulted on its Leisure Strategy last year, which covered provision of facilities across Central Beds, and the spokesman also sent the LBO a link to this, while not commenting specifically on the needs of Leighton Buzzard for better leisure provision.