Existence of Leighton Buzzard Narrow Gauge Railway 'potentially threatened' by housing scheme

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Town council says it strongly objects to Bellway plans

The future of Leighton Buzzard's narrow gauge railway could be at risk, if a housing development goes ahead nearby, according to the town council.

Bellway Homes (North Home Counties) Limited has submitted plans for 25 houses on land north of Vandyke Road in the town, after demolishing any remaining structures on the site.

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The project is listed with Central Bedfordshire Council for residential development with 57 parking spaces, an amenity area, access and landscaping on 2.2 acres of grassland.

Peter Pan travels to Stonehenge Works with its centenary train - Credit Owen ChapmanPeter Pan travels to Stonehenge Works with its centenary train - Credit Owen Chapman
Peter Pan travels to Stonehenge Works with its centenary train - Credit Owen Chapman

There would be 17 market housing properties, six social affordable or intermediate rent, and two affordable home ownership, according to the CBC planning portal. Of the 17 market homes, ten would be three-bedroom and seven four-bed.

A resolution from a March meeting of the town council's planning and transport committee suggests it strongly objects to the development and recommends that CBC also opposes the planning application.

The reasons are the town council "resolved that a green corridor should be maintained along the length of the narrow gauge railway to safeguard the town’s main tourist attraction and to protect residents from the impact of the line, such as loss of privacy, noise, soot and smoke".

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It also claims: "The proposal would have a detrimental impact on the amenity of the narrow gauge railway line and potentially threaten its existence."

A spokesman for the railway told the LBO: "We are aware of the planning application and have made appropriate comments to the town council. We have no further comment to make at this stage."

The Leighton Buzzard Railway is one of the last survivors of the hundreds of two feet gauge light railways built in Britain for industrial use, said its website.

"It's believed to be the only remaining line, owing its existence to the ready availability of surplus materials and equipment from the First World War battlefield supply lines.

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"Opened by Leighton Buzzard Light Railway Limited in 1919 to transport sand, and uniquely operated since then without a break, it's carried a steam-hauled passenger train service since 1968.

"It also houses one of the largest and most important collections of narrow gauge stock in England.

"Passengers are offered an 85-minute round trip from Page's Park to Stonehenge Works, which is in the Bedfordshire countryside to the north of the town.

"The current track is just under three miles long. The original line continued for another three quarters of a mile to Double Arches, and restoration of this section is part of its latest appeal."

The railway is managed and operated by the volunteer members of the Leighton Buzzard Narrow Gauge Railway Society, which is a non-profit organisation with charitable status.