New £25m leisure facilities for Leighton Buzzard are back on track

An artist's impression of the new leisure centre. Image: DB3 Architects.An artist's impression of the new leisure centre. Image: DB3 Architects.
An artist's impression of the new leisure centre. Image: DB3 Architects.
An amendment to Central Beds Council’s budget has reversed a 12 month postponement decision

New £25m leisure facilities for Leighton Buzzard are back on track after an amendment to Central Bedfordshire Council’s budget was passed.

The project was to be postponed for 12 months because of the local authority’s current financial challenges.

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But an amendment from the Liberal Democrat group on CBC at a budget full council meeting has reversed that delay.

Councillor Shaun Roberts (Lib Dem, Leighton Linslade South) told the Full Council meeting last night (February 22) that leisure centres play an important role in communities.

“It’s more than just fun and games, although we shouldn’t underestimate that,” he said. “They’re good for people’s health of all ages, both physical and mental, and I think Central Bedfordshire has recognised this for some time.

"Dunstable and Flitwick have modern premises, a new facility for Houghton Regis is on its way, Biggleswade has had a recent revamp and moves to upgrade the offer in Sandy are afoot.

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"The final piece in this jigsaw is the leisure centre in Leighton Buzzard. Our centre was built in the early 1970s, when the town was less than half its current size.

"It's extremely expensive for this council to run and the facilities are far below what a town of our size needs now. It needs replacing.

Councillor Roberts added that it would cost nearly £200,000 extra in this year’s budget to bring the project forward.

“But what it will save is at least £2 million, possibly £3 million in capital costs that would be incurred if we delayed it,” he said.

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“And it also brings forward the revenue from the new leisure centre to an earlier date, so to me this is a bit of a financial no-brainer.”

Liberal Democrat Leighton Linslade South councillor Emma Holland-Lindsay said: "Our residents have endured years of broken promises, health and leisure facilities which haven't been delivered.

"This council has the chance tonight to make a promise and keep it. We must deliver this development on time."

Independent Leighton Linslade West councillor Steve Owen explained: "I know this is a tight budget. But the priorities in Leighton Buzzard, nice though a shiny new leisure centre would be, lie elsewhere.

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"They consist of decent health provision and putting muscle behind the badly needed and long-term project to redevelop the town centre and the derelict land south of the High Street."

And councillor Victoria Harvey (Independent, Leighton Linslade West) was concerned about sustainable travel to the new leisure centre.

“After all the conversations on being careful with the budget and the costs of borrowing I do find it odd that this has been brought forward,” she said.

“But there is a much more serious problem, we do not have the cycleways, we do not have very good buses. This is going to be a massive car development at the moment.

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“It might take years to get links between the eastern development and the leisure centre unless there is a really proper drive to sort out sustainable transport in Leighton Buzzard and I’m not seeing that locally politically,” she said.

Councillor Roberts said: “Councillor Harvey is right to point out that there’s lots of work to do on the transport side. And certainly we as local councillors are committed to doing that.

“That is work that could be going on while the leisure centre is being built.

“It would make no sense for us to wait for that to happen before we start building the Leisure Centre and allowing the cost to go up millions and millions of pounds more,” he said.