First payment made by retail park developers for initiatives to boost Leighton Buzzard town centre

Grovebury Road Retail Park, June 2018
Grovebury Road Retail Park, June 2018

Developers behind the new retail park for Leighton Buzzard have paid the first installment of a chunk of money for town centre improvements, it has been confirmed.

The Claymore Group first received outline planning approval from Central Beds Council for Grovebury Road Retail Park in November 2013, and in March 2017 it was given the full go-ahead on more detailed aspects of the development, including the appearance and scale of the buildings, landscaping and site layout.

At that time a Section 106 document was drawn up which instructed Claymore to make a contribution towards a number of town centre initiatives, including work to link the retail park site to the town centre.

The sum of £245,000 was earmarked for:

> enhancing the attractiveness of the town centre as the main retail quarter of the town

> improvements to courts, alleyways and signage in the town centre

> architectural and feasibility work for the relocation of fire station

> a temporary car park at Land South of the High Street

> funding for other work to bring forward the Land South of the High Street scheme

Central Beds Council has now confirmed to the LBO that almost £160,000 of that sum has been paid this summer. A spokesman said: “We received £159,250 and the remaining £85,250 is due when 80% of the total floor space of all of the retail units at the development is occupied; or two years from the date of implementation of the planning application.”

Regarding the fire station’s proposed relocation, the spokesman added that much hinged on the Land South of High Street development proposal. She said: “Whether or not the fire station is relocated would be dependent on proposals for a commercial redevelopment of this area being suggested.

“Our preference would be for a comprehensive redevelopment of the High Street which includes the fire station, but it is feasible that this could happen with the fire station still in its current location.

“If this were the case, the S106 funding would be used towards improvement projects in that area in line with S106 funding conditions. We have recently asked the town council to give some thought as to what projects could be funded using this money.”

A Beds Fire spokesman said: “Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service are aware of this potential development and should the project develop further, then of course we will engage with partners to support it where possible providing our expert input on local resources, community risks and how best to mitigate them.

“As part of this we will consider the most effective and efficient way of delivering our services to the community, and that could be done in collaboration with other emergency Services, Police, Ambulance and others.”

Gennaro Borrelli, chairman of independent traders’ group LB First, and owner of Gennaro’s Organic Hair Salon in Bridge Street, said he wanted to know more detail on how the money secured would be used.

He said: “We need to make sure that money is specifically spent on things to entice people into the town centre and not simply on other Central Beds maintenance programmes they should be paying for anyway.”

Claymore say they are not yet in a position to announce the retail park’s final tenant having already secured Marks & Spencer Food Hall, B&M, Wickes, Pets At Home, KFC drive thru, Topps Tiles and Subway.

Building work began in October 2017, with completion of the main contract works anticipated early Autumn for handover to tenants for their fit out. It is hoped all the units will be open by Christmas.