Leighton-Linslade councillors who say vision for Land South is not a 'pipe dream' told to back up their claims as report delayed

Land South of High Street, Leighton BuzzardLand South of High Street, Leighton Buzzard
Land South of High Street, Leighton Buzzard
"The town council has a plan. It's not a pipe dream as this report dismissively calls it.”

A costed alternative way of developing land south of the High Street in Leighton Buzzard needs to be provided by local councillors to avoid a gradual regeneration of the area, a meeting heard.

The onus is firmly on Central Bedfordshire Council ward councillors for Leighton-Linslade to produce the evidence which backs up their vision for the locality, the local authority’s corporate resources overview and scrutiny committee was told.

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Residential-led mixed-use is the most likely demand for the land, according to a report to the committee. This would mean more people living, working and spending their money there, so the town continues to be a thriving, bustling and vibrant place, said the report.

Liberal Democrat Leighton Linslade West councillor Russ Goodchild suggested: “The officers’ report can only be considered as negative and blinkered as all options open to them haven’t been assessed.

“It goes in one direction to effect a quick sell-off of a parcel of land for residential development to boost capital receipts, none of which are guaranteed to be invested in Leighton-Linslade.

“The focus has centred on vague CBC proposals for residential development on CBC-owned land only. Why you’ve chosen to ignore a town council compiled master plan for a comprehensive scheme using the whole of the available land doesn’t reflect well on this administration.”

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Independent Leighton Linslade West councillor Steve Owen referred to there being no collaboration, while a full council motion seeking that is mentioned once briefly early on and then nowhere else in the report.

“The town council has a plan,” he explained. “It’s not a pipe dream as this report dismissively calls it. The comprehensive redevelopment stands up financially. It’s strategic, it’s visionary, it looks to the future of Leighton Buzzard.

“There has been no listening by CBC during the last ten months. Collaboration would enable a meeting of minds, a pooling of idea and draw on the support of of residents.”

Independent Aspley and Woburn councillor John Baker listed local projects, which are benefiting from CBC investment, such as the new leisure centre, local school expansions and Marigold House in the town centre.

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“We haven’t a clear and consistent plan of what ward members and residents want,” he warned. “Until then we’ll spend time going round in circles.”

Executive member for business, housing and public assets, and Independent Biggleswade West councillor Steve Watkins replied: “If the master plan is deliverable, let’s speak about that next week.

“We’ll consider the parking data again. The onus has to be on ward members to make something happen. We’re letting down our residents if we’re still stuck here in four years and we’re no further forward with a proposal for this land.

“We can’t ring-fence cash. I’ve explored committing some funding towards a cultural facility. This isn’t a money-making opportunity for us. Otherwise I’d bring a fully residential plan.”

Councillors agreed a recommendation to the executive to shelve the report for meaningful talks to be held, addressing all the issues, with a revised report returning to the committee.