Leighton diners kicking up a stink over Pizza Express drainage stench

Pizza Express Market Sq Leighton Buzzard
Pizza Express Market Sq Leighton Buzzard

Officials have been trying to get to the bottom of an ongoing stench inside Leighton’s Pizza Express restaurant after diners kicked up a stink.

Both Central Beds Council and Anglian Water have sent officers down to investigate the nasty niffs at The Old Fire Station premises in Market Square.

Pizza Express Market Sq Leighton Buzzard

Pizza Express Market Sq Leighton Buzzard

It follows a raft of complaints on social media aboutthe smells at the site that used to house public toilets years ago.

One local posted: “Yes it’s disgusting. Someone from head office needs to come and try eating next to the toilet and see how bad it really is!”

Other posts include:

> “Yes it does stink in there and when it gets to summer there is a problem with flies too , apparently there is nothing they can do about it.”

> “I’ve never complained but yes it can be smelly in there. There must be something that can be done.”

> There is nothing Pizza Express can do! We have spoke to the council and the only thing they can do to fix it is knocking the building down! Which they will not do!”

Another source told the LBO: “The public toilets were only properly removed when Ask moved into the premises, they were just closed for a number of years.

“As a member of a local Am Dram group we used the facilities above when the British Legion moved out and I can assure you after any heavy rain or during the summer the smell was pretty dreadful and it seemed to come from the old lavatory region but you could smell it throughout the building. It was very similar to the smell from Globe Lane sewage works if the wind is in the wrong direction.

One apparent staff member posted that the smell was an “external issue” that employees try to keep under control.

He added: “ [We use] fragrances, sprays, anything to make it smell better but obviously at times the smell will over power these.”

Catronia Devlin, Operations Manager for PizzaExpress restaurants in Herts, Beds and Bucks told the LBO: “We are aware of the issue in the Leighton Buzzard restaurant, and can confirm that this stems from the drainage pipes.

“Central Beds Council and Anglian Water are investigating these issues, which are currently only impacting the disabled toilet and baby change areas (which are located downstairs).

“Whilst the issue is being resolved, we have taken temporary action by moving the tables near the toilet, and by flushing the pipes in question. We apologise for the momentary inconvenience.”

A spokesman for Central Beds Council said: “Our Trading Standards team went down to the area and the site but didn’t notice anything strange or not right. They have also received no complaints about it.”

An Anglian Water spokesman said: “This incident was not reported directly to us, however we have now sent a technician to inspect the area and look for any blockages in our sewer pipes.

“If anyone sees a sewage leak of any kind we would urge them to get in touch with us via our Pollution Watch hotline 03457 145145 or let us know on Twitter or Facebook.”

> Have you experienced the smells at the building? How bad were they? Email news@lbobserver.co.uk.

History of the buidling by Paul Brown of Leighton Buzzard & District Archaeological & Historical Society...

The building variously known as the Old Town Hall or Old Fire Station was sold to the people of Leighton Buzzard in August, 1919 by the then Lord of the Manor, Joseph Truman Mills.

The town’s market had been operated from the site for more than 1,000 years. Latterly the building was used to house the market stalls and other equipment until it was allowed to fall into disrepair by South Bedfordshire Council and leased to Ask Restaurants. The terms of the controversial deal were kept secret, but involved the restaurant chain repairing the Grade II listed building and housing the town’s original fire engine as a feature of the new restaurant. It is now known as a Pizza Express.

There were toilets on the right hand side at the back corner on the ground floor with a door looking down Lake Street. It was closed when the toilets opened in the multi-storey car park, just before Ask Restaurants took it over.

The current building dates from 1853 when the old timber structure was demolished and replaced with a “modern” Town Hall.

The building had many uses the main one being as a market house, where the tolls were collected and a variety of shops operated.

The meeting room upstairs became the headquarters of the Volunteers rifles, a territorial force, and by 1890 the Fire Brigade became the new tenants downstairs.

To make the building fit for a “modern” fire brigade the single doors on the ground floor at the front of the building were replaced by a wide arched entrance in 1919. The ground floor remained the town fire brigade’s headquarters through to 1963 when a new fire station opened in Lake Street.

The British Legion that had been tenants of the upper floor also moved out to Bossington Hall and Old Fire Station, as it had then became known, was used partly as a store, a WRVS tea rooms for old folk, and for meetings. Maintenance was not kept up by the council, which decided to dispose of the building.

This caused a long running battle to try and save the building for the town. A covenant covering the sale of the building at the time of it passing to public ownership was that it should be used for the benefit of the people of the town.

South Bedfordshire Council, which at the time was run from Dunstable, and had the benefit of market rents, decided to disregard the covenant.