Pedestrianisation of Leighton Buzzard High Street 'could be a real winner, but not as proposed' says councillor

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"More than £4m investment is needed to find the right solution"

More than £4m investment is needed to find the right solution for Leighton Buzzard town centre, a meeting heard.

Work towards finding the right answers will continue over the next 18 months with an experimental traffic regulation order in place allowing buses and other traffic access again on non-market days.

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But arrangements can be put in place to alter the situation before that deadline, a Central Bedfordshire Council traffic management meeting heard today (Tuesday, Feb 1).

Leighton Buzzard town centreLeighton Buzzard town centre
Leighton Buzzard town centre

A permanent traffic order will be introduced for Lake Street, which was also part of the original scheme.

This has introduced one-way traffic in a northerly direction on Lake Street, from the fire station exit opposite Leighton Buzzard library up to the junction with Hockliffe Street.

Consultation has taken place since the start, according to sustainable transport and active travel team leader Steve Lakin, who referred to two petitions, one in favour and one against.

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Vehicles can return to Leighton Buzzard High Street on non-market days while per...

Conservative Leighton Buzzard South councillor Amanda Dodwell called for "a real plan" for the immediate area.

"Pedestrianisation could be a real winner, but not as proposed," she warned. "We need to take into account Land South of the High Street and address some of the issues about deliveries to the front of shops.

"Taxis, where the bus stops are, currently works for the companies, but we need to bring buses back into the High Street otherwise we'll lose the around town buses."

She questioned whether enough short-term parking is being provided, saying: "I think it will cost far more than £4m. If you put in trees and bushes, a seated area and cobbles which are matching. People have a real choice then."

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Conservative Leighton Buzzard South councillor Ray Berry wondered whether a response of less than 1,000 of the 45,000 residents locally was representative.

"Efforts to justify the pedestrianisation project have been doomed to failure because the High Street doesn't in its current state lend itself to this format," he said.

"Pedestrianisation must be deferred until the Land South of it is brought into the equation and a wider view of the community uses of the area can be formed."

Liberal Democrat Linslade councillor Peter Snelling agreed there should be a longer period than six months to have "an adequate consultation" period.

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He suggested drawing much from a report which referred to New York "isn't much of comparison with what's happening in our High Street", adding: "We do need the buses back. And it means the taxis moving."

Conservative Heath and Reach councillor Mark Versallion acknowledged: "There's no perfect solution. Someone is going to be upset.

"There needs to be enforcement of vehicles going through the gate. We can't continue with the same thing. It needs to be done properly, not partially.

"High streets in other towns have access to the rear, so big delivery vehicles don't use it."

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Leighton-Linslade Town Council noted that CBC's report records that some local residents asked for better disabled parking provision, improved public realm provision, better car parking, and better enforcement, but no answers suggested.

Conservative Arlesey councillor Ian Dalgarno, who chairs the meeting, warned of the potential to "end up with serious accidents", if the current situation continues.

"We'll open up (the High Street) for a short period of time until we do some place shaping or find that better solution which is enforceable."

All interested parties will be invited to share their views as to how the system can be operated successfully, while consideration on any wider development may have to wait for funding opportunities to emerge.

What's your view on this decision? Email [email protected].