Plans for 146 homes at Leighton Buzzard's Millstream Works prompt concerns about 'traffic, flooding and wildlife protection'

However, the applicant, Pledge Office Chairs Limited, says that the scheme would "ensure its continued future as a local employer"

Monday, 10th May 2021, 5:32 pm
Updated Monday, 10th May 2021, 6:21 pm

Leighton Buzzard residents have raised concerns about an outline planning application for up to 146 homes on land at Millstream Works, Mill Road.

Their worries range from claims that an increase in traffic will only exacerbate problems on the already narrow streets, to allegations that the site will lead to an increase in flooding, and questions about what will happen to wildlife.

They also claim that consultation has been "minimal", and that informative signs posted on lampposts became soaked in the rain and illegible.

Millstream Works. Photo: Kirkby Diamond and Pledge Office Chairs Ltd.

The application has been submitted by Pledge Office Chairs Limited, who are seeking the redevelopment of their existing site at Millstream Works for residential purposes, while the firm intends to relocate to "modern premises elsewhere within the district".

The redevelopment will involve the "demolition of all existing buildings", which would be replaced with a mix of two storey homes, and two, three, and four storey residential blocks.

Resident Lucy Moore claimed: "Round here, it feels like back streets, but people already use it as a cut-through to West Street and Plantation Road. You have to queue to get out of Bassett Road. People sit and wait behind parked cars.

"The application crams a lot of homes into a small space. If it does go ahead, my preference would be that it is changed so not as many homes are built. The traffic is already bad at peak times."

It was also claimed that there had been an accident involving a cyclist and a car on Queen Street in March, prompting further concerns about a potential increase in a traffic.

Another resident echoed these concerns in a message to the LBO. The woman claimed: "Residents' concerns include flooding (already prevalent), sewage (the smells from drains of a previous development nearby are terrible), traffic (250 plus cars via one entrance into densely populated area), protected species (badgers/bats) and overstretched services."

Talking about the flooding, one man told us: "The area regularly floods, on the north west side in particular and blocks the riverside path. The whole development will exacerbate the issue; with hardstanding and driveways there will be no more green areas for the water to flow into.

"There are plans have an attenuation pond in the north corner but that's on the high side of the plan. The low side is reliant on water flowing into river, but our years of experience with the flooding leads us to believe that this will not be enough. The river has already flooded three times since Christmas."

He added: "The four storey buildings are not in-keeping with the area and will spoil the walk along the river path. I don't think there will be enough parking for cars, and people will park in the surrounding roads.

"The access road will cut through existing banks and disturb properties with building work and increased traffic, and the development will also need a sewage pumping station. This could cause noise, odours and ground vibrations."

Referring to the wildlife, residents told the LBO that they believe bats and badgers live at the site, and wish to know what will happen to them when it is developed.

The Preliminary Ecological Appraisal submitted with the application states: "It is recommended that further surveys to determine the presence or absence of roosting bats are undertaken prior to works commencing...there is sufficient scope to include whatever compensatory measures may be required, including new roost provision (in the form of boxes on retained trees, or even dedicated garages). As such, there can be certainty that the proposed development can suitably maintain the local conservation status of bats."

Meanwhile, members of the public cannot access the badger survey results in the ecological appraisal. It states: "Survey results and evaluation in respect of badger are set out in a Confidential Appendix separate to this report."

It is said that the Confidential Appendix Badger Survey Results and Assessment are "available on request".

To view the planning application, visit the Central Beds Council planning portal and use the following code: CB/21/01686/OUT.

The consultation closes on June 1. The date differs to original communication which suggested the cut-off date was May 14.

There have been 27 responses to date, with 23 against, 4 comments and none in favour.

A spokesman from Kirkby Diamond on behalf of Pledge Office Chairs Ltd, said: "The application has been made in outline with all details reserved for future consideration apart from the means of access. The site layout and scheme details are indicative to allow an impression of how the scheme could look, the final details will be determined through future applications. The applicant wants to establish the principle of redeveloping the site, which will then allow them to relocate their business to a more suitable location in the town. Pledge Office Chairs are a major employer in the town and operate a busy site providing jobs for 130 local people. They wish to stay in Leighton Buzzard and consolidate their operations into more modern premises located on an industrial estate with better access to main roads for HGV’s.

"Traffic

"At present deliveries to and from the site have to pass through the residential areas, including large HGV’s. The redevelopment would remove these delivery vehicles, as well as traffic generated by employees and other deliveries during the day.

"A scheme for 146 dwelling units would not necessarily equate to 300 cars. This is a sustainable and accessible location, with good footpath and cycling links into the town centre and railway station. It is expected to appeal to future residents who commute by train, or work in town and walk or cycle. Traffic from the residential use of the site, should also be offset by traffic generated by the existing use of the site. A transport statement has been submitted that considers traffic issues and traffic generation in detail. The scheme will be designed to provide sufficient on site parking to meet residents needs, we do not envisage there being an increase in parking demands on the surrounding roads.

"I understand that a resident has raised a recent accident between a cyclist and a car locally. I am afraid I do not know the details of this incident, so cannot comment on how this may relate to our scheme. However, the transport assessment has not identified any particular highway safety concerns in the local area, suggesting that this incident was an unfortunate and isolated incident.

"Appearance and Density

"As we have highlighted above, the planning application has been made in outline, with all matters apart from the access point to be considered by future applications.

"A design statement has been prepared (as attached), which includes examples of other 3 and 4 storey developments in the surrounding area. The existing buildings on the site establish a scale of built form, which for the large warehouses are not dissimilar to a 3 to 4 storey high building. There are 3 storey apartments just to the north of the site on Monarch Way, that set a nearby precedent for that scale of building. In addition, the site sits lower that the surrounding residential areas, so the scale of buildings would be hidden to a certain degree by the reduction in ground level. The indicative scheme also positions lower storey development along the riverside edge of the scheme, so the buildings step up towards the centre of the site. This would help to preserve the character of the riverside path.

"The new buildings would help to improve the setting of the riverside path, increase safety and security by encouraging activity and natural surveillance of the path, and allow for new connections to be made to the riverside from the surrounding neighbourhoods.

"Flooding

"A detailed flood risk assessment has been provided in the application documents. The site itself, where the buildings have been located, does not flood and is not within an identified flood zone. Surface water flowing down the access road would be intercepted and diverted into the swale running along the eastern boundary of the site, to an attenuation pond to the north of the site. This would hold storm water from the drainage on site and would then be released at a measured rate over time. The scheme has been designed around the drainage solution, to ensure that it will not increase flood risk elsewhere and keeps the future occupiers of the development safe.

"The existing site has extensive areas of hardstanding around several large buildings, and this would be replaced with permeable paving, gardens and landscaped areas, all of which would allow water to infiltrate into the ground. Surface water from buildings and roadways will be diverted into the on-site drainage system including the swale and attenuation pond. This has been calculated and the drainage system designed to accommodate a 1 in 100 year storm event allowing for climate change, as required by the Environment Agency.

"Wildlife

"An ecological appraisal has been submitted, which makes recommendations for biodiversity net gains following the development. These include new habitat creation, new planting, a wildlife corridor, wetland features, bat boxes, hedgehog nesting domes, habitat piles, and nectar rich wildflower areas. The proposals take account of the badgers on site and have been designed to provide the space and separation around the badger set. Further surveys can be undertaken, if required, to identify and address other ecology issues should the redevelopment be approved. Any other protected species identified on site will be treated in accordance with best practice as required by legislation.

"Sewerage

"The sewerage scheme has not yet been designed. If a pumping station is required, that will be incorporated into the development and appropriately attenuated to prevent noise, fumes and vibration.

"Access Road

"The existing access serves a busy employment site, frequently used by HGV’s and delivery vehicles, as well as employees in their own vehicles. As we have highlighted above, it is expected that not all residents will use a vehicle, particularly as this is a highly accessible location and other routes into the town centre alongside the river are available. Once the development has been completed traffic levels will be typical of other residential development in the surrounding area.

"We would of course be open to meeting with residents when it is appropriate to do so. It is of course understandable that residents have questions about the proposals, and we hope that any concerns can be allayed in due course."