The battle to find a space in Leighton Buzzard’s crammed car parks has been heating up – thanks to visitors swarming to the town’s splash park and beach.
But while the soaring temperatures draw in the crowds from near and far to the popular attractions in Parson’s Close Recreation Ground, motorists are struggling to keep their cool.
A Central Beds Council parking study has previously confirmed that Leighton’s car parks are operating close to bursting point.
But in the past week the problem appears to have deepened and the LBO has heard reports of long queues at entrances and within car parks (see our Facebook page).
Leighton-Linslade Town Council this week pledged to continue to press CBC to address the issue.
While Gennaro Borrelli, chairman of independent traders’ group LB First, is equally keen to see a solution brought forward.
He said: “It does seem that the hot weather is attracting lots of people to our town especially for the splash and play and beach.
“The benefits of having more people in our town centre and therefore potentially spending more money is obviously a good thing but of course how the parking is managed is very important, particularly if many local people are struggling to access the town.
“CBC’s parking study showed our car parks were at full capacity particularly on market days, this included the supermarket car parks too.
“Strange then when you think how Tesco is taking up a chunk of its car park to put in a car wash and Aldi has submitted a planning application to CBC for the building of 10 flats with associated parking to be built at the top end of its car park thus potentially reducing capacity even further. Not to mention the fact that up to now we still don’t know what kind of parking arrangements are planned as part of the South Side development.”
With the splash park and beach gaining rave reviews online – one Facebook group called Milton Keynes Kids is recommending it to their followers – the popularity is snowballing as word spreads.
One LBO reader said: “People in shops are talking about the parking problems in and around the town. The town centre car parks are filling up early with day trippers so no room for shoppers.
“Coachloads are being bussed in from MK to use the splash park, out of towners are coming over to use it and, as a consequence, people in Leighton can’t get into the town because car parks and streets are full of visitors’ vehicles.
“There appears to be rather a lot of resentment from LB mums who say they can’t use their own town’s amenity.”
The beach and splash park were installed at the Green Flag award-winning park by Leighton-Linslade Town Council.
Town clerk Mark Saccoccio said: “Parson’s Close has become a popular destination for families and certainly year on year, numbers are increasing. Whilst we don’t have any hard evidence, I would guestimate we have somewhere in the region of 1,500 visitors on a busy day.
“We have no control over car parks as this responsibility rests with CBC. The town council is acutely aware that car parks are running at or near capacity from the recent car parking survey carried out by CBC. We will continue to lobby CBC on ways they intend to address parking within the town.”
But with the splash park popularity rising, there may be hope for some relief in future years as other councils latch on to the idea.
Mr Saccoccio added: “Several towns local to Leighton-Linslade have contacted the town council expressing a genuine interest in developing their own facilities similar to those found in Parson’s Close. We wish them every success in delivering their own facilities to the benefit of their residents.”
And he said there was no question of charging for the facilities to keep numbers down. “As a public open space and publicly accessible facilities, it was never the intention to charge for their use and this remains the position. Both the beach and the splash and play were introduced to meet the needs of our local residents as well as contribute toward the tourism offer of the town by increasing footfall within the high street.”
A spokesman for Central Beds Council told the LBO: “It is great that so many people are visiting Leighton Buzzard to take advantage of the splash park, shops and market.
“We are aware that this has led to car parks being full on certain days recently and understand people’s frustration, although on most days there have been spaces available.
“The council operates five car parks in the town offering almost 600 spaces, and two of these are aimed at shoppers rather than day trippers or commuters as there are restrictions on how long you can stay there.”