People power wins the day as flats scheme on South Side of Leighton Buzzard rejected

A map of the proposed flats behind Church Square
A map of the proposed flats behind Church Square

Plans to situate a “cramped” and “overbearing” block of flats behind two historic pubs in Leighton Buzzard town centre have been decisively quashed.

Central Beds Council has refused developer Mayfair 500’s application to build 18 flats to the rear of the former Post Office building on Church Square.

It had been claimed by campaigners that the venture would harm the long-term Land South of High Street scheme as the site was part of the development brief.

The flats would have included a commercial space on the ground floor and would have closely bordered the beer gardens of The Black Lion and Golden Bell pubs.

In a decision notice which mirrored many of the 190 objections submitted by the public, CBC stated: “The restricted and cramped nature of the site would result in this block being an unsatisfactory form of development.

“[There is] no communal amenity space, and windows from the flats look directly or obliquely into The Black Lion pub garden at very close proximity.

“The proposal would have an overbearing, dominating and oppressive impact to the occupants of ‘Goostrey’ development.”

CBC also noted future residents of the flats would have likely objected to noise from neighbouring pub gardens.

Gennaro Borrelli, chairman of LB First, said: “It’s absolutely fabulous news for our town and it goes to show what the power of a really good people campaign can do.

“It’s something LB First have constantly been campaigning against, but a big thanks go to all residents who got behind our campaign and took time to email and write objections.

“There were so many reasons this application was flawed and no good to Leighton whatsoever. If it had gone ahead, it would have blocked off the bottom access to the South Side.

“We feel this is a great opportunity now for Central Beds to step in and purchase the remaining parcel of land. This will stop the South Side being developed piecemeal and out of everybody’s hands.”

The LBO understands that Central Beds Council’s regeneration team has renewed its interest in developing Land South of High Street.

On February 12, CBC regeneration officers will host a drop-in session at Leighton Linslade Town Council offices from 1.30pm to 8.30pm, allowing the public to discuss what they would like to see developed on the South Side.

Mr Borrelli added: “I’d urge people to continue talking to LB First and giving us their support. We’re doing lots of lobbying, working with pro-active councillors and we’ve had some really positive talks with senior regeneration officers at CBC.

“This is a great time to converge and start having serious discussions about Land South of High Street and what can be done for the benefit of the town.”

Linslade Independent Cllr Victoria Harvey has been a vocal supporter of developing the South Side and she hailed CBC’s decision.

Cllr Harvey said: “This fantastic news is due to local residents actively engaging and contacting with both their CBC and town councillors.

“After the amazing public campaign from local residents, shops keepers, LB First, the Leighton Buzzard Society and the town council, officers at CBC have worked very hard and been very fair in assessing and refusing this application.

“Since the election, many councillors have been pushing for the development on Land South of the High Street to come forward with a mixture of cultural, leisure and retail facilities that his town so needs.

“I really hope that lots of people will come to the drop in-session on February 12.”

A spokesman on behalf of developer Mayfair 500 said: "We are obviously disappointed in the planning officer’s decision. However, we will be reflecting on their comments over the coming months and remain committed to helping realise Leighton Buzzard’s town centre aspirations of which this site forms an important part."

> The drop-in session to discuss Land South of High Street takes place on Wednesday, February 12, from 1.30pm to 8.30pm at the town council’s base at the White House.