Will traffic ‘mayhem’ continue at Leighton Buzzard’s retail park?

Traffic ‘mayhem’ at Leighton Buzzard’s new retail park could be just a temporary spike in demand according to Central Beds Council which has admitted it is closely monitoring the current congestion.

The final unit was opened on November 14 when Aldi launched at the Grovebury Retail Park, but frustrated motorists have been highly critical of the lack of parking spaces and the narrow access onto the site.

Grovebury Road Retail Park under construction

Grovebury Road Retail Park under construction

The original planning permission for the retail park back in 2013 had prohibited the sale of convenience food, but that has since been relaxed to allow M&S Foodhall and Aldi to move in, the latter taking over from Wickes which had been originally lined up.

And with food retailers generally accepted as generating more traffic and greater parking needs than that of a non-food operation, shoppers claim the retail park can’t cope with the number of visitors.

Since the launch of Aldi, the public has been complaining that the site is gridlocked, with many contacting the LBO or commenting on our Facebook page.

A small selection of the comments include:

> The car park seems far too small. Also the entrance and exit of the car park is far from acceptable, it’s too small and tight. It needs to changed or and another exit put in. Local council have failed again.”

> “It was mayhem this morning as we all knew it would be. Not enough parking and the entrance and exit into the car park is too narrow!”

> “We all knew the car park wouldn’t be big enough with the other shops on there as well, but hey what do the locals know?”

> “Was going to go in but carried on driving by as there was no parking!”

> “We’ve just tried to go there but we couldn’t even get into the carpark and the people in the carpark couldn’t even get out...and Grovebury Road was backed up on both sides of the road, like a carpark. Needless to say, no shopping was done and they have lost the trade.

> “Walked up there yesterday to have a look. Car park is hopelessly inadequate and needs urgent expansion.”

> “Now Aldi has opened it just shows how inadequate the car park is.. all stores now will suffer footfall cos folk will just get fed up and go elsewhere. Grovebury Rd will become gridlocked at certain times on the day.”

However, it is believed that the New Year will bring a truer picture of the situation, once the novelty of the new stores has worn off and the festive season is out of the way.

The fact that Aldi’s town centre Vimy Road store has been closed for a number of weeks as work to expand it continues may also have driven extra customers to Grovebury Road. That store is due to reopen in the coming days.

Whispers that an overflow car park might be on the cards, look to be unfounded. As although a planning application has recently been submitted for a 16-space car park opposite KFC, this is intended for use by the public enjoying the surrounding countryside and not shoppers.

A Central Beds Council spokesperson said: “The number of parking places on this site does meet standards. However we are aware that the opening of a new store can sometimes lead to an initial surge in demand which soon settles down.

“We will be monitoring the situation closely to find out if that is the case here.”

Central Beds and town councillor Amanda Dodwell said she was delighted, after years of delays, that all the unit were now open.

She said: “Despite scepticism from some local residents, the mixed offering at Grovebury Road has proved very popular; there is a good choice of shops, with three food outlets and two food stores including the new Aldi store.

“I appreciate that some visitors have experienced problems with the extra traffic since Aldi opened, and I think it was inevitable there would be a spike in traffic due to the novelty that goes with the opening of a new store.

“I am aware of a number of specific concerns; the lack of parking spaces, and the narrow entrance / exit onto Grovebury Road – which in turn causes congestion both in the car park and on the main road.

“We will wait and see what happens over the coming weeks – I would expect there to be increased demand in the run up to Christmas, so we may not get a true picture until the New Year – but I would like to assure residents that if this proves to be a long term problem I will urge the site owners to work with CBC to find a solution to ease the congestion.”

Retail park developers Claymore, failed to comment on the situation when approached by the LBO.

> Do you think the congestion is just a temporary spike and the situation will improve after Christmas? Email news@lbobserver.co.uk