Could Travelodge plans be 'Trojan Horse' for flats in Leighton Buzzard town centre?

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Plans to build a Travelodge have caused a stir in Leighton Buzzard, with suspicions it could be a 'Trojan Horse' for flats.

Burney Group is running a consultation about plans to build a 75-bed hotel on land to the rear of the Post Office, which the developer says would bring an annual spend of £1.8m to the town centre and create 14 jobs. A webinar is being held tonight at 6pm (January 16). However, suspicions have been aroused in the local community.

Paul Brown, one of the trustees of the Peppercorn Centre, which hopes to establish arts and heritage facilities in town, said: "We are not against the idea of a hotel because artists and audience members from out of town would probably need places to stay after performances.

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"However, this proposal is out of keeping with the area, is much too large for the site, and has no facilities. My view is it is extremely doubtful if a bed and breakfast hotel built in the middle of an acknowledged 'cultural desert', to quote Andrew Selous, could ever be viable. It will also destroy the character of that part of the town, never mind the congestion in Church Square. My guess is that a proposal to turn the 'failed' hotel into a block of flats would follow."

Travelodge. Photo: Ben Stansall/Getty Images.Travelodge. Photo: Ben Stansall/Getty Images.
Travelodge. Photo: Ben Stansall/Getty Images.
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Gennaro Borrelli, chairman of LB First, said: "There are one or two question marks about this proposal. You're talking about minimal jobs, probably low-skilled, low wage, and [to achieve their estimate of £1.8m] you'd probably need the hotel to be occupied at 80 per cent for 12 months of the year, and each person would need to spend about £50 to £100 in town. Ask yourselves, is that realistic? Where is the demand?

"If it gets planning permission, the building works are also going to cause tremendous upheaval - all the heavy machinery going out of Church Square."

Mr Borrelli added: "This could be a Trojan Horse for something else. After it's built, Travelodge could decide at the eleventh hour that it's no longer a viable option for them and pull out. And now planning laws have been loosened it's easy for commercial properties to be flipped for residential use. If a precedent is set for flats it could end up influencing potential designs for the land owned by Central Bedfordshire Council on the South Side of the High Street - which is crying out for community facilities and amenities."

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A CGI of the Leighton Buzzard site for the TravelodgeA CGI of the Leighton Buzzard site for the Travelodge
A CGI of the Leighton Buzzard site for the Travelodge

Landlord of The Golden Bell, James Drew, told the LBO: "I am not opposed to a hotel, even where it is proposed to be on the old sorting office behind the post office; my objection is that it is exactly the same design as the 23 flats that were turned down over two years ago with the same developers now owning the land. This screams build for a hotel - the hotel pulls out, so go for a change of use and turn it into flats.

"Flats in the town centre is not something that is needed. It brings more issues with parking, traffic, and from a personal level, noise complaints for the pub. We need as many objections from the local community. Otherwise, it will affect the trading and hours and 'noise' from both the Golden Bell and the Black Lion."

Register for the webinar at