Have plans for arts and heritage centre in Leighton Buzzard hit brick wall - Central Beds Council refuses to reveal restrictive covenant details

Historical rules attached to the land could prevent use for entertainment
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The fight for an arts and heritage centre in Leighton Buzzard appears to have hit a brick wall, as Central Bedfordshire Council (CBC) states it cannot reveal more information about restrictive covenants.

In May 2022, news broke that there were certain historical rules attached to Land South of the High Street, which would prevent the use of the area for cinemas, theatres or “other place of amusement whatsoever”.

This was particularly disappointing for the Peppercorn Centre, a charitable company which has been working on plans for a new arts and heritage centre in the town.

The Peppercorn Centre directors on the site of the proposed arts and heritage centre behind the Wilkos Store in the High Street. Left to right, Gabi Davison, Natasha Seale, Janet Kirby, Sally White and Paul Brown.The Peppercorn Centre directors on the site of the proposed arts and heritage centre behind the Wilkos Store in the High Street. Left to right, Gabi Davison, Natasha Seale, Janet Kirby, Sally White and Paul Brown.
The Peppercorn Centre directors on the site of the proposed arts and heritage centre behind the Wilkos Store in the High Street. Left to right, Gabi Davison, Natasha Seale, Janet Kirby, Sally White and Paul Brown.

The group claims that the landowner, CBC, isn't providing answers about the covenants, but is instead "passing the responsibility" to any developer - in this case, the Peppercorn Centre trustees.

However, CBC states that this is because any "legal investigations" would cost "taxpayers' money" – and says it is still investing in the area.

Peppercorn Centre trustee, Paul Brown, told the LBO: "We have been attempting to get a specific answer from Central Bedfordshire Council on land south of the High Street.

"What we need to know is: do these covenants restrict the development of the land? Will the council apply for them to be removed so the land can be developed for the enhancement of the town centre?

"Did the council know about the restrictive covenants when they bought the land? Do the Assets Department know whether the covenants apply or can be removed?

"In view of the restrictions placed on the Library Theatre there is increasing anger in the town at the lack of facilities, particularly as Leighton Linslade grows ever larger with no town centre public meeting halls or public facilities.

"I want to emphasise again we are not asking the council for money - just cooperation. However, we cannot make any progress unless we can get an answer. "

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A CBC spokesman said: “We are aware that the Peppercorn group has been developing ideas for the council’s land south of the High Street. We are currently reviewing what realistic and deliverable opportunities that land could offer for Leighton Buzzard.

"It is common for land or property to have covenants and detailed legal investigations would need to take place to address the questions raised. Whoever is looking to take forward a scheme on any piece of land needs to undertake these sorts of legal investigations and considerations, and we’ve advised the Peppercorn group that is what they need to do.

"These legal investigations cost money so the Peppercorn group is asking for us to spend taxpayers’ money despite what they say.

“The Library Theatre has been operating on a reduced programme in recent months due to difficulties recruiting staff. We do have jobs available in the Library Theatre and would welcome applications for these roles via our website. Comments about the theatre being closed will be because we continue to invest in the building. We have invested £840,000 in the last five years and we are currently having a lift installed to improve accessibility.

“We are currently developing an arts and cultural strategy which will be a first for the council.

“We continue to invest significantly in the area and this includes a planned £25million new leisure centre and the £13million 63-bedroom Marigold House care home as we deliver new facilities for residents in Leighton-Linslade.”