The developers behind a proposed retail park for Leighton Buzzard has registered their intention to keep the scheme alive – just four days before the three-year original planning permission would have lapsed.
Back in November 2013, the Claymore Group received outline approval for the £15million Grovebury Road scheme, which included proposals for a DIY store, four smaller warehouse units for bulky goods retailers, a standalone drive-thru restaurant and 277 car parking spaces.
With approval from Central Beds Council in the bag and a High Court challenge from local campaigner Victoria Harvey – who said the park would threaten the future of independent traders in Leighton town centre – fended off, it left Claymore free to press ahead with its scheme once the remaining reserved matters on the planning application were settled with Central Beds Council.
The three-year timeframe to submit their reserved matters application, covering the appearance and scale of the buildings, landscaping and site layout, expired on November 14, but on November 10 Claymore submitted its paperwork to CBC who officially validated it a day later.
Back in May, EDS Holdings submitted proposals for an rival shopping park at the Camden site, off Grovebury Road, and a report prepared for EDS by Indigo Planning Ltd had claimed that, with November not far off, Claymore’s scheme was “in serious doubt”.
Now, Claymore’s new planning statement reveals that the approval of the remaining matters would see construction get under way in “early 2017”. CBC has set a target date for a decision of February 10.
The developer says: “The design of the proposed development is of a modern retail warehouse park comprising large format buildings positioned around a customer car park with a complementary drive-thru restaurant positioned along the road frontage.
“The detailed proposals for the site are considered to be a high quality inclusive design appropriate to the particular circumstances of the site and its surroundings.”
But anti-retail park campaigner, Ms Harvey said: “The out of town retail park will only provide a DIY store two-thirds of the size of Homebase, two stores the size of TK Furniture and two smaller stores - no food stores and no clothes stores.
“According to the developers it will take over £2 million per annum in trade from town centre shops, and so risks boarded up shops in the high street and the end of the market.
“Due to congestion many people despite their support for the high street will end up driving along the bypass to the retail park instead of battling the traffic to go into town and the loss of footfall will really harm local independent shops and our market.
“Endless surveys have shown that people want more clothes shops in the town centre not small units in an out of town retail park selling furniture and DIY that is already sold in the town centre.
“Why are our Central Bedfordshire councillors dragging their feet on delivering the south side of the High Street that will provide the clothes shops and variety that people in Leighton Buzzard have said they want? Do our Central Bedfordshire councillors want Leighton Buzzard town centre to become like Dunstable?”
Referring to the fact the Church Commissioners own the Grovebury Road site, she added: “It is disgraceful that the Church of England, against huge resistance from the local community, businesses, town council, and local church are hoping to make money out of risking our historic high street, and market for a soulless small out of town retail park.
“There are big questions over whether there will be public transport links, adding to congestion and also excluding those without a car especially the elderly.”
Back in May, Stephen Cole, co-founder of the Claymore Group, told the LBO their scheme was not in doubt and said the company was on target to submit the reserved matters application shortly and “well within” the November deadline.
He said: “The Grovebury Road scheme is coming forward. We are very far advanced and in contact with a number of key tenants.
“I know the council are very supportive of the scheme.”