Visitor facilities for Tiddenfoot Waterside Park in Linslade 'have come out of nowhere'
'The preferred option isn’t set in stone. What will be sustainable and viable financially will be considered'
Proposals to spruce up Tiddenfoot Waterside Park in Leighton Buzzard with visitor facilities were like a bolt from the blue, a meeting heard.
Three potential options were presented to Central Bedfordshire Council’s Leighton Linslade Partnership committee.
Conservative Linslade councillor Gordon Perham told the committee he has been pushing ideas about this for ten years. “I’ve had this idea for having a log cabin type area and a Springwatch facility where a camera views over the water, and people can birdwatch and do photography and art projects,” he said. “I thought it wasn’t going anywhere and then suddenly it seems to have come up.”
Conservative Leighton Buzzard South councillor Ray Berry agreed, saying the three ward councillors should have been consulted. “In 2025, we’re scheduled to take Grovebury Lake off the operators and turn it into a water area,” he explained.
“With Astral Lake down one end, Tiddenfoot at the other, when we get Grovebury Lake we’ve a walk area which is a complete arc, and the logical place for a cafe will be in the middle.”
Town councillor Clive Palmer said: “Tiddenfoot would benefit from better facilities, particularly toilets to take pressure off other open spaces which have come under great pressure in recent months.”
Conservative Leighton Buzzard South councillor Amanda Dodwell said: “It seems to have come from nowhere. I know Grovebury’s an operational lake, but we have got visions of having water sports there. We’ve got plans for a leisure centre in town and probably could do with funds towards that.”
Town councillor Steve Owen referred to positives such as providing toilet facilities and using the derelict stables, but he warned: “There’s an obvious minus of increased traffic.
“The bigger it is, the more it costs and the more you need to attract visitors to make it worthwhile financially, and the greater the traffic problem becomes.”
Conservative Leighton Buzzard North councillor Ewan Wallace described it as “a neglected, rough diamond of a community asset” but wanted to know how it would fit in with other schemes nearby.
CBC’s active lifestyles manager Howard Hughes explained that three options were considered as part of a feasibility study. The first was about redeveloping the derelict stable block to provide a space for community use, as well as a cafe and meeting rooms.
“But that wouldn’t allow for extra parking,” he said. “It’s not the most welcoming area unless you’re in a vehicle. We considered a building with a small cafe and a meeting room or activity space on land between the car park and the paddock area.
“A third option is a larger building further into the paddock which would be a more iconic design and a much bigger facility. This recognises a large proportion of the area is a county wildlife site, so we’d want to ensure that was protected.”
The committee was told section 106 development funding would run out in 2029.
Apologising to councillors, Mr Hughes replied: “The preferred option isn’t set in stone. What will be sustainable and viable financially will be considered, as well as traffic management and the extra costs of having a facility.
“The driver for this has been people’s feedback over the years about having no toilet facilities and how it impacts on their ability to make full use of the park. There would be a lot more detailed work that would need to be done.”
Councillors voted to investigate a wider scheme for the area, rather than push ahead with the preferred second option.