Electric vehicle charging hub could replace pre-approved housing project in Leighton Buzzard

Electric vehicle charging hub could replace already approved housing project on site allocated for employment at Leighton Buzzard v.1
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A site with planning approval for 27 flats on the outskirts of Leighton Buzzard could become an electric vehicle charging hub instead.

Applicant Metalcraft Developments Limited has submitted full plans to Central Bedfordshire Council to put in two electricity substations and bays for 36 vehicles on land off Billington Road, which is currently allocated for employment.

The project would involve changing the use of the half an acre site, installing 18 electric vehicle charging points, with landscaping, resurfacing and other external works.

An electric car charges at a mall parking lot in California. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty ImagesAn electric car charges at a mall parking lot in California. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
An electric car charges at a mall parking lot in California. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Development consultants ELG Planning described the location as “an undeveloped parcel of land which has remained vacant for an extended period, despite having been designated for employment use within successive adopted (CBC) Local Plans”.

In its planning statement, the company explained: “The surrounding area is broadly commercial in character, with an industrial estate to the north and a gym to the east, as well as the nearby McDonalds drive through premises.

“The residential development was approved on the basis of no longer needing to maintain the land in employment usage and to occupy underused space.”

If approved, the site would operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Instructions would be shown on signage and on the chargers, along with contact details if people had any issues. The statement continued: “A local engineer will be sent if there are problems which can’t be fixed remotely and a team of engineers will visit on a regular basis to undertake general site maintenance and to service the chargers.

“These will be rapid charging units with costs of supply determined by the operator depending on market prices.”

The applicant’s planning statement said: “There’s a growing need for the type of facility proposed with the UK having committed to net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Electric vehicles offer one method of reducing emissions.

“This area comprises a negligible proportion of the local planning authority’s overall employment land supply, and no such development proposals to provide jobs have emerged in almost 20 years.

“It’s considered there’s overriding justification for an electric vehicle charging hub in this location.”

According to the planning application, the proposals, if approved, would “contribute to an identified need for more electric vehicle charging infrastructure, meeting the sustainability, climate and transport objectives of the council”.

Grovebury Asset Management Limited had planning permission granted for the two-bedroom apartments in January 2022. But the site near a McDonalds fast food restaurant and a petrol station on the southern edge of the town was labelled “not a great place” for housing by Independent Leighton Linslade West councillor Victoria Harvey.

She said at the time: “I pity the people who’ll live there. You’re stuck against a busy road, even with the screening. It’s not good development. Unfortunately, it’s hard to refuse.”

Leighton-Linslade Town Council objected on highway safety grounds, the need for adequate noise mitigation, the loss of employment land and potential flooding problems. CBC’s development management committee will consider the electric vehicle charging scheme in due course.