Talks over eastern expansion of Leighton Buzzard need to be reenergised to avoid a community being split in half

Leighton Buzzard
Leighton Buzzard

A community risks being split in half if a solution isn’t found to the boundary issue linked to the eastern expansion of Leighton Buzzard.

With a sizable chunk of the planned new housing actually falling in the parish of Eggington, those residents will nevertheless look to Leighton Buzzard for services, while paying nothing towards them, a meeting of Central Beds Council’s general purposes committee heard on Thursday.

Eggington

Eggington

Three representatives of Leighton-Linslade Town Council spoke at the committee meeting and called for a way forward to tackle the future expansion issue, with attempts to ensure a combined response having proved fruitless so far.

Leighton-Linslade town councillor Clive Palmer, from Southcott Ward, said: “Many residents of the town are unanimous that the eastern urban extension, always conceived as part of Leighton-Linslade, must be included in the town boundaries, where it is not so at the present time.

“Our residents would not understand any other course.”

Leighton-Linslade town clerk Mark Saccoccio said the council has “lobbied in support of the urban extension recognising the benefits measured growth would bring to our community”.

He told the meeting: “One reason for doing this is in order to deliver additional burial capacity in the form of a new cemetery, which this parish desperately needs.

“By accident and not design almost half of the proposed extension will find itself in the adjoining parish of Eggington.

“Despite the best endeavours over many years no pragmatic solution has been found so far and makes it very difficult for both councils to plan for the future.

“Planning is not about risk it’s about delivering certainty for those residents,” he added.

“So we require the unequivocable support of Central Bedfordshire Council to re-energise those talks between my council and Eggington parish.”

Town Council leader Ewan Wallace said: “I would be concerned about Eggington’s ability to deliver the services and manage them. What we would like out of this process is this authority to act as a facilitator with Eggington.

“I have tried many times to engage with Eggington, and we need that honest broker for that conversation.”

Conservative Leighton Buzzard South councillor Amanda Dodwell admitted she was one of the councillors who put forward the original recommendation for Leighton-Linslade, but subsequently changed her mind.

“We should do the Central Bedfordshire wards at the same time as the town wards,” she said. If we do that in 2023 that would be the best way forward where we could do the whole thing together.”

She described the boundary to the east and Eggington as: “the elephant in the room. This is the issue we can’t discuss”.

“It’s been referred to as the Leighton Buzzard eastern extension and part of it will fall in the parish of Leighton-Linslade,” she said.

“But then we’re going to split the estate in half, and the rest of it’s going to go off into Eggington.

“And that makes no sense. We’re going to split the community in half.

“We’ve a parish council in Eggington that’s not got the infrastructure to run the services this new community is going to need.

“People who move into the houses will look towards Leighton Buzzard and believe they are part of the town.

“Leighton Buzzard is going to have the burden of actually providing the services for the new community because we are the largest town.

“They are going to use our services, but they are not going to pay any tax towards those services.

“Somehow or other we need to sort this issue out,” she added. “We need to put them into one parish.

“We need Central Bedfordshire Council, as the senior authority, to intervene because we need to find a way forward.”

Conservative Dunstable Watling councillor Nigel Young warned: “The development of the land east of Leighton Buzzard is imminently going to get started.

“The rate of building will generally not be more than 100 (homes) a year, that’s ten years of development.

“If during that time play areas are allocated it’s important to this council they are adopted by the town or parish council.

“I don’t know whether Eggington has said ‘yes, it’s going to adopt those areas’.

“If there’s any doubts at all about whether the responsible parish or town council will look after those play areas that would lead me to come down on the side of Leighton-Linslade on that specific issue.”

Councillor Dodwell was told the recommendations being considered by the committee could not be altered, but had to be accepted or rejected.

It was suggested a combined approach to the committee should be initiated by Leighton-Linslade and Eggington.

In the absence of any such agreement, an approach should be made to Central Bedfordshire Council’s chief executive, Richard Carr.

The committee agreed the parish name of Leighton-Linslade should stay as it is, while the parish boundary will remain the same.

A further review of the area will be held when a substantial number of the new homes overlapping into Eggington parish have been built.

These recommendations will be considered by the full council next month. If they remain unchanged they will be ratified from April 1, 2019.