Threat of judicial review lingers over Eggington parish boundary review

“The village has a right to remain in its own free state and as a village community.”

By Euan Duncan, Local Democracy Reporter
Friday, 17th June 2022, 3:46 pm

The threat of legal action lingers between two Conservative-run local authorities over a parish’s community governance review, a meeting heard.

A request from Leighton-Linslade Town Council prompted Central Bedfordshire Council to undertake a formal process for the review of Eggington parish.

The Clipstone Park estate is on the fringe of Leighton Buzzard, but in the parish of Eggington. The town council considers it as part of an urban development and an expansion of the town.

Eggington sign

The results of the second stage of the review were presented to CBC’s general purposes committee.

Overall 61 per cent supported the recommendation for the Eggington boundary to remain unchanged, according to a report to the committee.

But three quarters of the respondents from Eggington village wanted the boundary to be changed, said the report, while a similar percentage of the Leighton-Linslade replies also disagreed with the recommendation.

Town councillor Russ Goodchild told the committee: “It beggars belief a document from the town council hasn’t been considered in either the appendix or the report.

“The only response from a parish acknowledged is that from Hockliffe, which I find reprehensible,” he said.

“This 11-page paper outlines the planning history of the development, including your own east Leighton-Linslade framework plan adopted in 2013.

“It clearly refers to Clipstone Park as an urban extension which will be integrated physically and socially into the town.”

Conservative Leighton Buzzard South councillor Ray Berry, who chairs the committee, stepped aside to speak as a ward member before leaving the meeting along with Conservative ward colleague David Bowater.

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Councillor Berry said: “I was surprised at the approach by Eggington Parish Council at the last meeting.

“Eggington as a village isn’t voting in favour of the status quo. It’s voting strongly for Clipstone Park being ceded to the town council.

“The village population I’ve spoken to wish to remain a rural community. The position they face is a two-seat contribution to a seven-seat future parish council.

“I think that’s wrong. The village has a right to remain in its own free state and as a village community.”

He suggested some committee members should “consider what they’ve said elsewhere rather than voting at this meeting because it leaves this council vulnerable to challenge”.

He added: “I don’t think a judicial review is any answer to this question.”

Conservative Stotfold and Langford councillor Steve Dixon said: “That sort of language I find mildly threatening. I would ask you to withdraw that.”

Councillor Berry apologised, saying: “It wasn’t meant to be threatening. I have a fear both councils will end up spending money for nothing.”

Independent Linslade councillor Victoria Harvey shared councillor Berry’s concerns over the villagers in Eggington.

“It’s extremely sad there’s a Conservative town council and a Conservative CBC, and somehow things can’t be worked out better,” she said. “That’s a real tragedy.

“For getting infrastructure delivered I understand why the people of Clipstone Park voted the way they did.”

Councillor Dixon said: “My gut instinct is this is going to be a challenge for Eggington. Many things could change.”

Councillors voted to include this in the committee’s work programme for a progress check in 12 months’ time.