Land South redevelopment is 'last chance' to secure Leighton Buzzard's prosperity says LB First chairman

Gennaro Borrelli, LB First chairmanGennaro Borrelli, LB First chairman
Gennaro Borrelli, LB First chairman
Central Bedfordshire Council is set to consider future plans for the area next month

Regenerating plots of land south of Leighton Buzzard High Street represents “one last chance” for the town’s future prosperity, a local businessmen has warned.

Adopting the right approach is crucial to attract shoppers and visitors, according to Gennaro Borrelli, who chairs LB First and owns Gennaro Organic Hair and Beauty in Bridge Street.

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Speaking after a Leighton Linslade Town Council extraordinary meeting, held in response to CBC’s latest proposals for the area, he explained: “It’s worth remembering what the consultants previously advised CBC.

“To obtain the best outcome and the maximum from that land, complete ownership or control of it is required, not just a little area, because that’s where CBC went wrong previously.

“Retailers and chains were encouraged to go there, but the site resembled a piece of back land or just a cul-de-sac. It would be difficult to service any units. How would delivery vans and lorries get in there? Where would people park?

“There wasn’t any connectivity with the rest of the High Street. That’s what GBA Consulting advised CBC in 2016. A piecemeal approach would most likely mean not getting the outcome the community wanted.

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“If we begin with a housing-led project, we’re starting from the wrong place. A predominantly residential development will take up the lion’s share of the land.

“You’ll lose most of the car park and end up with the crumbs. If that goes ahead, CBC will take the bulk of the cash to balance the books.

“Some money will be ringfenced and you can have have this scrap of land for whatever community facility or amenity you want, but you’ll need to find the rest of the finance. There’ll be no money, no land and no car park.”

Mr Borrelli suggested there could be a minimum 85 properties provided. “Where would residents park?” he asked. “How would that impact on traffic in Lake Street?”

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Around £60,000 of Section 106 money was set aside in the past to consider moving Leighton Buzzard Fire Station, he said. Four sites were potentially to be considered.

“That would free up this land, with the idea of building a new multi-storey car park and also relocating the taxi rank there. The car park area could be developed as part of the rest of the site.

“We don’t know where the Section 106 funding has gone. These things drop off agendas. CBC owns some of the houses by the fire station, knowing that land would be redeveloped at some point in the future.

“And we’re unaware what conversations were had with adjoining landowners. There’s been no planning application for a Travelodge from the people who bought the land behind the Post Office. Is that no longer economically viable?

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“Unless there’s a good vision and a plan, that makes it difficult to apply for central government funding for town centre redevelopment, as well as obtaining finance from private sources,” he added.

“For the future prosperity of our town centre, this is one last chance to be really innovative and make it a destination point.”

CBC is set to consider future plans for the area next month.