Behaviour over Leighton Buzzard boundary with Eggington Parish likened to annexation of Austria ahead of World War Two

A further 12-week public consultation is proposed to start on January 3

Monday, 20th December 2021, 11:45 am
Updated Monday, 20th December 2021, 11:46 am

Leighton-Linslade Town Council's behaviour was compared to the annexation of Austria ahead of World War Two in a debate about the parish governance for the nearby Clipstone Park estate.

The local authority's correspondence during an eight-week consultation process was branded "idiotic" by a Central Bedfordshire councillor.

A request from the town council last summer prompted a review about which authority the estate, situated on the fringe of Leighton Buzzard but in the parish of Eggington, would come under.

The town council offices (Photo:Graham Mountford)

A further 12-week public consultation is proposed to start on January 3, according to a report to Central Bedfordshire Council's general purposes committee on Thursday.

"The second stage consultation ‘draft recommendations’ is based on one specific option from the results of the first stage," said the report.

Rob Jeffries, who chairs Eggington Parish Council, suggested: "It would be impossible to move ahead with a recommendation to go to stage two", when 81 per cent of parish residents opposed any extension of the Leighton-Linslade town boundary.

"When you look at Clipstone Park residents have their own allotments, they have their own cemetery, they have their own parks," he said. "There's no extra cost when it comes to Leighton-Linslade."

Referring to "propaganda sent out by the town council", he added: "The parish council has an unbiased view. Eggington village residents were told if the Clipstone Park residents remain in the parish their precept would go up.

"The documentation which went out to Leighton-Linslade residents was if the Clipstone Park residents don't join their parish the precept will go up.

"They've told them the precept is going to go up regardless of whether they stay or whether they go depending on who they target."

Independent Aspley and Woburn councillor John Baker labelled the letters "irrelevant" and "campaign material", explaining: "I told the town council to 'make your case' in August.

"What I meant was deliver some positive leaflets, knock on doors and persuade people to join your council. They sent three idiotic letters. They set residents against each other, they set a community against each other and they got a bloody nose. We carried out the process correctly. We consulted correctly. We issued a number of options.

"If the town council wants to be stupid and deliver three different sets of letters which annoy and anger residents when they don't care about the community, all they're interested in is the money, they're free to do so.

"Of course the letters were meant to influence the process, but in a slightly different way. They didn't get the result they wanted. They've absolutely screwed this up.

"We've consulted residents in Eggington parish," he added. "We've done the right thing. We haven't consulted residents outside.

"You can't allow that to happen for reasons we can guess. You can't have a repeat of what happened in Austria in 1938.

"I'm recommending we reflect in stage two what we were told in stage one," referring to the overwhelming feedback against a boundary change.

Conservative Stotfold and Langford councillor Steve Dixon said: "On balance, I don't think the lettters are misleading. They're strongly informative in one direction rather than the other and had some bearing on people's state of mind."

Conservative council leader and Arlesey councillor Richard Wenham, who was chairing the committee for this agenda item, said: "If we recommend the status quo and residents reject that, it'll be for this committee and full council to interpret that decision."

The committee voted to disregard the town council letters as campaign material, and accept the results of the consultation using it to inform the next steps.

And it agreed to move to stage two with the suggestion of no change with the current parish boundaries based on the initial feedback, with suitable wording for further consultation to be produced by officers and shared beforehand.

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