Leighton-Linslade partnership committee will have to compete against other towns for slice of Government funding

Towns in Central Bedfordshire are set to compete against each other for a share of the latest government recovery funding.

By Euan Duncan, Local Democracy Reporter
Monday, 25th April 2022, 3:06 pm
Updated Thursday, 19th May 2022, 4:25 pm

Central Beds Council has been allocated £4.944m towards several different priorities, according to its place programme manager Sam Caldbeck.

He explained: “There’s a particular focus on rejuvenating high streets, so of particular interest locally trying to future-proof and adapt the town centre after Covid.

“Your partnership project list and other resources help inform that plan. We’re looking at alleyway linkages between the south side and High Street, as well as signage and lighting improvements.

Leighton Buzzard town centre

“The shared prosperity funding replaces the European Union structural funds programme.

“It’s very much simplified. It was very difficult to secure funding. The bidding process was complicated. It looks like the government is trying to be as flexible as possible.”

Independent Linslade CBC and town councillor Victoria Harvey said: “If one of the accesses to land south of High Street could be bought, you’re opening everything up and getting space you could use.

“There’s the real risk we’ve lost the through route into Church Square, which was seen as really crucial.

“One of the big tragedies of this town is there isn’t sufficient space to do things and enough venues to bring people in. Would it be possible to purchase land?” she asked.

Read More

Read More
Possible start and finish dates revealed for building new £25m Leighton Buzzard ...

He replied: “Ordinarily this funding wouldn’t go towards acquiring land. You need to bear in mind this is for Central Bedfordshire as a whole and has to go quite far.

“There are other types of fund which contribute towards land acquisitions. Homes England has a broader remit now. It has other funds which are emerging, including brownfield infrastructure funding. We can look into the detail on other finance.

“It’s a three-year programme and the money has to be spent within that time. Having the project list and knowing the general priorities already helps us.”

Town councillor Clive Palmer described it as “encouraging”, saying: “We need to know what the time scales are, so we don’t fall foul of them.”

Conservative Leighton Buzzard North councillor Ken Ferguson: “We’ve had many wonderful ideas and aspirations over the years about what’s going to happen on land south of the High Street, and nothing’s happened.

“Forgive my cynicism, but until we see a timetable or spades in the ground, it’s just another talking shop of ideas for the future.”

Mr Caldbeck said: “Unless Central Beds wants to trip over itself and not allocate the funding, it’s up to us (Leighton-Linslade) to compete against the Biggleswades, Flitwicks and Ampthills to come up with a scheme and get the money.

“We looked at the deliverability of a scheme in the land south area during Covid. The market conditions weren’t right.

“We’ve asked global real estate services firm andexperts in these matters Cushman and Wakefield to see whether the market has changed. The economy has moved on.”

Councillor Harvey added: “The problem with the way you describe meeting consultants for land south it does look like, by default, one of the options for a health hub is quietly being dropped without more discussion.

“If this hub ends up in the east, along with the leisure centre, we might as well kiss our High Street goodbye, as the entire attraction of the town will move towards that development.”