No immediate changes to Leighton Buzzard's pedestrianised High Street but improvements could be made if it remains in place after March 2022

Tweaks now would have extended the trial scheme for an additional six months

Wednesday, 31st March 2021, 3:27 pm

There will be no immediate changes to Leighton Buzzard s pedestrianised High Street, but improvements could be made if it is to remain after March 2022.

Central Beds Council will be reviewing the current Experimental Traffic Regulation Order (ETRO) in one year's time, and making recommendations for the future of the High Street from March 2022, deciding whether the restrictions should be made permanent or withdrawn.

At a meeting of the Leighton-Linslade Town Council Planning and Transport Committee, it was concluded that the council would not ask for any changes to the existing ETRO, but that it would request that CBC considers a number of potential improvements if pedestrianisation remains after March 2022, including defining a temporary cycle lane in the High Street, street scene changes such as extra benches, and improved disabled access.

The pedestrianisation allowed the market to return in June 2020

It was noted that any amendments to the existing ETRO would have needed to be requested before March 30, and if amended, a new ETRO would then run for another 18 months, i.e. extending the existing situation for an additional six months.

The committee agreed it did not wish to extend the temporary arrangement and would prefer that Central Bedfordshire Council consider amendments following the end of the pandemic restrictions and once the existing order came to an end in March 2022.

It was recommended that a formal response to CBC on the future of the High Street from March 2022 be considered at an Autumn 2021 meeting of Leighton-Linslade Town Council.

Central Bedfordshire and Conservative Leighton-Linslade Town Councillor of Brooklands Ward, Amanda Dodwell, told the LBO: “The current measures run until March 2022, and we felt an extension would only serve to delay making a decision as to the long term future of the High Street. Twelve months is plenty of time to work with CBC to develop plans.”

Independent Leighton-Linslade Town Cllr Mark Freeman, of Barnabas Ward, said: "Members were very clear that they did not want to trigger an extension of the current Experimental Traffic Regulation Order by seeking amendments to the Order. Any change made to the ETRO would automatically restart the 18 month life of the Order.

"Whilst there was merit in discussing the ideas put forward for access for people with disability and the elderly, it was felt there may be practical issues with financial implications. The consensus was that all the issues raised should be part of a discussion of the whole council, not a decision made by a committee. It is important that any comments from the town council to Central Beds be representative of all 21 members, hence the recommendation that council consider the issue in the autumn any make their views on the future of the town centre known to the Highway Authority."

A Central Bedfordshire Council spokesman, said: “The Experimental Traffic Regulation Order is in place until March 2022, at which point we will consider all options in our review and make a decision as to whether the restrictions should be made permanent or withdrawn.

“The current scheme has facilitated safe social distancing to help people feel safer and encourage them to return to the High Street and shop there. The scheme has also allowed for the return of the market to the High Street and created additional space for businesses to operate. The scheme has however meant that bus services have needed to be diverted onto West Street.”