Councillors urge CBC to reopen Leighton Buzzard’s multi-storey car park

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Several Leighton-Linslade town councillors have called for the urgent reopening of the West Street multi-storey car park, claiming it is vital to help the high street recover post-lockdown.

Liberal Democrat councillors Russ Goodchild and Steve Owen have put forward a motion for July 27, hoping fellow town councillors will support the move and “demand” that Central Bedfordshire Council takes action.

Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Russ Goodchild claimed: “I think it should have been timed with the reopening of the shops. We’ve got this great big facility and it’s not being used. It’s affecting the footfall in Waterborne Walk, North Street, Hockliffe Street and the high street. It’s really a big issue.”

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Cllr Owen added: “We’ve got to make it easier for people to access the shops, particularly if they are disabled or asthmatic.

The West Street multi-storey car park. Photo: Google Maps.The West Street multi-storey car park. Photo: Google Maps.
The West Street multi-storey car park. Photo: Google Maps.

“There is a car park on Duncombe Drive, but it’s a bit of a trek for some people. 

“They [CBC] should be looking for ways in which social distancing can be observed. For a start, there are staircases at either end; you could have one for entering and one for exiting.”

Cllr Owen questioned whether CBC was avoiding reopening the car park for cost reasons, because it may need to employ staff to enforce social-distancing.

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Amanda Dodwell, a Conservative town and Central Bedfordshire councillor, said: “I fully support Cllr Owen’s motion and agree that we need to get the multi-storey car park open without delay. I can see no logical reason for it to remain closed.”

But leader of the town council Conservative Party, Cllr 
Steve Jones, told the LBO: “The multi-storey car park is not closed due to cost reasons, in fact CBC are losing revenue by keeping it closed. It is closed for Covid-19 safety reasons as its design does not lend itself to maintaining social distancing at one metre, let alone two metres.”

A Central Bedfordshire Council spokeswoman said: “As with all public facilities, we need to ensure they are compliant with the new safety requirements around Covid. We are currently putting in place the necessary measures and will reopen the car park as soon as it is safe to do so.

“There is available parking elsewhere in the town centre, including Duncombe Drive and Hockliffe Street car parks, which are very close to the West Street car park.”

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However, town and Central Bedfordshire councillor, Victoria Harvey claimed: “I spent the last two weeks lobbying, emailing, phoning and having meetings on this and was promised that it would be open last week.”