Fears about Leighton Buzzard's employment base as housing is approved

Plans for up to 150 homes in Leighton Buzzard have been approved, despite a call for more business marketing of the site to be carried out.

Friday, 12th October 2018, 10:20 am
Updated Saturday, 13th October 2018, 2:59 am

The development consists of land at Spinney Park and Spinney Pool in Billington Road within an employment area.

The land is described as a “brownfield, windfall site” in a report to Central Bedfordshire Council’s development management committee.

Edwards Warehousing Limited’s outline proposals involve a mix of detached and semi-detached houses with private gardens on the Spinney Park site.

A higher density development is planned for Spinney Pool, with four blocks of flats of five or six storeys, three detached houses and a play area.

The report suggested the project would remove “a 24/7 uncontrolled noisy use in close proximity to residential properties”.

But Conservative Toddington councillor Tom Nicol asked whether the site was marketed for B1 and B2 use.

“Those living in the lower floors of the proposed six-story developments will they ever see the sun?” he asked.

“Are we creating those dark, dingy sort of places for poor souls to go and live in?”

Councillor Nicol said his “real concern is the Spinney Park area” and the marketing of it for industrial use.

“It could be marketed for putting smaller industrial units on that site, B1 or B2,” he explained.

“Any notion that would be a problem for residential areas nearby, I don’t buy that.

“In B1 B2 we no longer have these noisy uses. There’s electronics going on in there and the levels of noise are quite low. Most B1 B2 users create fewer problems for residential type neighbours than more residential.

“I am disappointed we are rolling over rather readily on Spinney Park and turning it to residential.”

Councillor Nicol fears in Leighton Buzzard “there’s a tendancy now to sacrifice our industrial base”.

“All along Grovebury Road where there’s quite a lot of B1 B2/8 usage falling into delapidation we’re turning it largely into commercial facilities, and gradually we are losing our employment base,” he added.

“It’s not the employment we want en masse in Central Bedfordshire. We need people earning proper salaries and decent industrial enterprises. So I find myself siding with the town council in wanting to retain a degree of employment in the town and not seeking every site that comes forward as being residential.”

Leighton-Linslade Town Council objected to the plans because they are contrary to policy, as the land in question was designated for employment use.

Conservative Leighton Buzzard South councillor Ray Berry said: “The town council objected because it is a commercial site, but most of the sites around it have been developed residentially.

“It is in essence now a totally residential area, but for these two areas of land.”

Councillor Berry explained that his Conservative colleague councillor Amanda Dodwell wasn’t at the town council planning meeting when this application was discussed.

He said: “She could see no reason why this could not go ahead. On behalf of the town council I think they got it wrong. I will say now I vote in favour of the application.”

The other Conservative Leighton Buzzard Conservative councillor David Bowater said his only concern is “the steepness of the slope” into the lower site.

He suggested “a spare bit of grass could be made into a sand pit as an emergency breaking zone as appears at the bottom of some hills”.

Conservative Dunstable Watling councillor Nigel Young said: “What’s being asked of the developer on a site where he’s flattened his vacant warehouses we ought to have a punt at B1 and B2?

“Would you mind rebuilding your warehouses and advertising them to a potential occupant specification?

“In this case that doesn’t seem to be reasonable. I understand the debate, but on this occasion I don’t agree with it.”

Councillor Young urged planning officers to ensure there’s a strong landscaping condition to ensure the apartment blocks are in a high quality park environment” so it’s a really nice place to live.

Rod Kilsby, on behalf of the applicant, said: “Over the years, extensive areas of housing have been built in the locality. This drastic change mean it’s no longer either appropriate or desirable to counternance continued commercial use of this site as a suitable neighbour to residential properties.

“It is not only a brownfield site, but one that is perfectly located in terms of sustainability principles.

“Any attempt to continue its commercial use is undesirable and inappropriate, it is unrealistic and contrary to the approach advised in the National Planning Policy Framework.”

He told the meeting on Wednesday (Oct 10th) the site has been constantly marketed since 2012.

The Spinney Pool site was cleared because it was subject to “major vanadalism and damage” and police recommended the buildings be demolished, he added.

Councillors approved the plans by nine votes to one.