Concerns over infrastructure deficit as Leighton Buzzard’s population climbs towards 50,000

More new housing in on the cards
More new housing in on the cards

Politicians have pledged to fight for key services to accompany the housing growth which could see Leighton Buzzard’s population reach 50,000 in the near future.

With the eastern expansion set to bring an additional 2,500 homes in the next few years, Leighton-Linslade Town Council is worried about how Leighton Buzzard , with a population currently of circa 41,000, will cope and is keeping planning applications under close scrutiny.

The urban extension has already been agreed in principal by Central Beds Council, but now developers are devising detailed planning applications for individual sections of the land.

The latest was debated on Wednesday night at the town council’s planning and transport committee and is a scheme for up to 270 homes on the Stearn land off Vandyke Road and Clipstone Lane.

The plans from Arnold White Estates include open space, parking, a cemetery, allotments, highway works, and a new link road providing access from Clipstone Lane to phase 2 of Heath Road to Vandyke Road.

Cllr Clive Palmer, committee chairman, said the application had led to “considerable discussion, especially in view of the wider implications for the town and our residents”.

He said: “A principal concern of the committee in responding to Central Bedfordshire Council on this application (and no doubt others as they arise) was to emphasise the absolute need for it to be seen as part of the wider development and to ensure that adequate infrastructure is put in place to service this expansion of the town.

“The whole needs to be more than just the sum of the parts. There is already a generally perceived infrastructure deficit in Leighton-Linslade and such a significant expansion over the next few years will, for example, require considerable and appropriate new leisure and community facilities, health services (bearing in mind that the town population could easily reach 50,000 in quite a short time), school provision and very serious attention to traffic and parking matters.”

Cllr Palmer said the committee had been particularly concerned about traffic congestion and inadequate parking which, he said, were already major issues in the town. He said the urban expansion was likely to see several thousand additional vehicles on the roads in Leighton-Linslade.

He added: “Studies, including those on transport, upon which the original approval for the expansion of the town was considered, are now a decade or so old and there is a clear need in Central Bedfordshire considering the current detailed applications to ensure that up to date statistics and situations are taken fully into account when new infrastructure provision is planned and finally consented, so that the quality of life for existing (as well as future) residents of the town is not worsened but rather improved, as a result of the new developments.

“The committee also felt that the town council should be consulted when consideration is being given to the allocation of finance associated with the Urban Expansion to new services and facilities in the town, to take advantage of our local knowledge.

“It is clear that this Urban Extension will take place over the next few years - that decision has long been taken - but the town council, while not being the planning authority, is equally clear in its wish to do all it can to minimise the issues which may result for our residents and to maximise the benefits which may be available.”

The documents supporting the Arnold White Estates plans state: “The application hereby submitted does not seek to change the form or amount of development from that which is already consented. Rather, it seeks to change only the access arrangements, to facilitate the early delivery of housing and the frontloading of key infrastructure within a sustainable urban extension for which planning permission has already been granted.”