Objections are beginning to flood in against plans to build 18 flats on land south of Leighton Buzzard’s high street.
The application seeks to build an apartment complex behind the Post Office building in Church Square, with the ground floor to be used as commercial space.
Neighbouring pubs the Black Lion and Golden Bell have been opposed to the scheme from the beginning, with fears that noise restrictions could be imposed to satisfy the new residents.
Lisa Drew, landlady of the Golden Bell, stated in her objection: “It is clear to see around the country, the effect that noise complaints have on pubs and music venues. Licence restrictions and noise abatement orders will kill both the Golden Bell and Black Lion pubs. I am aware a noise survey was carried out on behalf of the developers, but this was done during the colder months while our garden was not being used.
“Our town centre is dying. We see it daily in the decline in the number of people out in the evenings. Shops are sitting empty, as across most of the country.
“What has been proven is that people want leisure facilities in their town centres to bring them together.”
A new Facebook group, ‘We Want Our Say - Local L.B. Residents re.South High Street Development’ has amassed over 200 members in the space of a week. Several members have urged local ward representatives, Cllr Ray Berry, Cllr Amanda Dodwell and Cllr David Bowater, to oppose the scheme.
In response to these concerns, Cllr Dodwell stated: “I am fully aware of the strong feeling among local residents and businesses towards this application and I am listening to those concerns.
“However, as the vice chair of the Leighton Linslade Town Council (LLTC) planning committee, I am not able to express a view one way or another prior to the meeting – to do so would prejudice me and prevent me from taking part in the discussion and vote at the meeting. This is the same for all councillors – both LLTC and CBC – who sit on either councils’ planning committees.”
The town council is due to discuss the proposed development at its planning committee meeting on Wednesday, June 12.
Gennaro Borrelli, chairman of LB First, has spearheaded a campaign against the residential development, which he believes will kill off the Land South of High Street regeneration project.
He said: “Word is spreading and spreading, more people are realising that this is something no-one wants to see happen.
“We’ve already seen so much housing growth in town and there’s more to come, it’s not what people want to see in the town centre. They want shops, leisure facilities and more amenities.
“The danger is if we start to see the whole of the land flood in with flats it leaves very little room for the other things people are asking for.”
Mr Borelli accused Central Bedfordshire Council of taking a “backseat” and “market-led” approach to the Land South of High Street regeneration scheme, and said other local authorities had been more proactive in leading regeneration projects.
He added: “Looking at what other towns have done, we can see the new town being built north of Cambridge – retail experts are telling them to design it with mews and alleyways and cobbled streets because this is what people want, and we have that here already.
“There’s evidence people are coming back to town centres where the retail offer is good.”
A spokesman on behalf of developer Mayfair 500 said: “Central Bedfordshire Council has aspirations to rejuvenate Leighton Buzzard town centre through the redevelopment of the land located to the south of the High Street.
“Mayfair 500’s proposals to redevelop the land at 7-9 Church Square forms an important part of this masterplan area.”
Residents have until June 13 to submit their comments on the application. These can be made via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by writing to Central Beds planning at Priory House, Chicksands, SG17 5TQ, quoting planning reference CB/19/01241/FULL.