The start of work to remove parking spaces from outside the historic almshouses in North Street, Leighton Buzzard has prompted a backlash.
The parking bay is said to be “relied on” by the elderly and “vital” to nearby businesses.
On January 9, workmen arrived in North Street to begin Central Beds Council’s approved plans to widen the entrance to Cornmill Mews (between the almshouses and The Wheatsheaf). This was to allow residents of the new properties to have better access to the main road.
However, widening the entrance means the removal of a parking bay in front of the almshouses – a move which many have argued is unfair to disabled residents and could severely harm local business.
Frank Paolucci, owner of Frankie’s Cafe, argued: “It’s absolutely ridiculous! We’ve got delivery lorries coming down here every day;they need the spaces in front of the almshouses, but without those they’ll have to do a delivery in the middle of the road!
“There’s also about 20 shops here and our customers need the spaces.
“There’s a tree opposite The Lime House - why doesn’t the council create another space where the tree is; it will get rid of a tree - but we’re losing our livelihoods! Removing the spaces was poorly planned and it will definitely harm the evening trade for the chip shop and restaurants.
“Why do we pay the council our business rates?!”
The owner of Ocean Fish Bar, claimed: “Of course it will be bad for business.
“My customers already say they object - even my delivery man objects! It’s a big lorry.
“We wrote to the council but they didn’t listen. It’s too late now.”
Leslie Perry, hairdresser at Unique Cuts, alleged: “All the work started and I didn’t know anything.
“From what I gather they are making way so people (Cornmill Mews residents) can have a better view.
“It seems a bit extreme. There’s only about 13 houses so there is not a massive demand.
“It looks very expensive for what’s happening; what’s the motivation? It’s suspicious.”
Iain Howell, who owns Forest Floors, said he was shocked that businesses hadn’t been consulted or notified about what works were being carried out or when they would take place.
He said: “By nature of our business we have regular daily deliveries which now have to be carried out in the middle of the road causing more congestion on an already busy road.
“We hear from the road workers that this work will take four-and-a-half to five weeks. Did the council not for one minute think that this may have an impact on the many small businesses along this stretch of North Street?
“Also I fail to understand why all of this work wasn’t agreed in the original planning process for the new properties behind the almshouses.”
An almshouse resident told the LBO: “I have a blue badge. The four bays in front of my house are staying but if one is not free, goodness knows what I will do!”
Another resident said: “I have lived in the almshouses for seven or eight years. I think the council are just going ahead with what was in the original plans. I went to the meetings when we were originally opposing the houses.
“You can park in the almshouse spaces between 6pm and 8am and on Sundays and then out of those times there is a half an hour limit.
“I think the shops on the other side of the road are really in trouble.”
Heather Morgan, almshouse resident, claimed: “I’m not happy about what they are doing. It’s not only the businesses who are affected. At the moment I have a car and park at the back of The Crown pub – the late owner allowed me out of the goodness of his heart.
“There are a couple of others who have disabled stickers. I don’t know what they are going to do and soon The Crown will be turned into flats and I won’t be able to park there. Some residents have also been parking at the side of the almshouses, which is the bit that they are turning into the road and soon it will have double yellow lines.
“I can’t carry all my shopping very far and need to pull up outside my house; I came home yesterday (January 11) and thought ‘where I am going to park my car?’.
“They were already doing work outside the almshouses.
“You can park free for two hours in the Baker Street car park, but now the spaces are going, and The Crown is sold. I’ll have to get a £250 permenant parking permit for Baker Street. But nine times out of ten there’s no space!”
The Leighton Buzzard Observer contacted Central Bedfordshire Council for a comment concerning the entrance to the Cornmill Mews, hoping to receive answers about when the plans were initially submitted, how much the work would cost, how people were notified about the plans, confirmation of which bays were being removed, why the widening of the entrance had begun well after the new homes behind the almshouses were completed, and the council’s justifications for the removal of the bays.
A Central Bedfordshire Council spokeswoman, said: “The planning application was taken to the council’s Development Management Committee back in June 2012, where Elected Members decided to approve the application. A parking calculation was submitted at the time.
“When this planning application was decided it was recognised that the site had good access to the town centre (which is within 400m) and is close to facilities such the train station which is also within walking distance, meaning that residents would have less reliance on cars than more rural sites.”