Town could nearly double in size

DEVELOPERS have finally revealed their vision for Leighton – a staggering 6,000 home estate to the east of the town with £50million of infrastructure.

The plan, made public on Friday, includes five new schools, a cemetery, health centre, shops, a leisure centre, open space and a vital eastern relief road.

The blueprint ticks all the boxes for improved amenities demanded by Leighton Linslade Town Council in exchange for controversially including the town in government plans for urban growth.

Local building companies Arnold White Estates and Willis Dawson have been negotiating with farmers and land-owners and signed them up to the Eastern Leighton-Linslade Partnership.

The group has presented its submission to the powerful Luton/Dunstable/ Houghton Regis and Leighton-Linslade growth area joint planning and transportation committee, which has been ordered by the government to find room for 43,000 new homes in South Bedfordshire over the next 25 years.

Earlier this year the committee called on local land-owners to contact the group if they had land suitable for development and the results were revealed at the committee's meeting on Friday.

The Partnership waded in with a complex brief outlining their ideas for 850 acres of land stretching from the Leighton Bypass, through Chamberlain's Barn quarry, the back of Vandyke, parts of Eggington, Clipstone Brook, to New Trees and Double Arches Quarries, Heath and Reach.

Along with more than 6,000 homes, including affordable housing, there would be four primary schools and an upper school, a new leisure centre that includes swimming facilities, shops and district centre that would include a small library, a health clinic, and cash provided to "rejuvenate and extend" shopping facilities in Leighton town centre.

An eastern duel carriageway is included stretching from Stanbridge Road to Heath Road via Hockliffe Road, Vandyke Road and Shenley Hill Road. A new reservoir will be built and open space created through "green corridors".

In its submission the Partnership say the scheme "will provide significant benefits to the town in terms of easing existing traffic congestion" and could be implemented within the next three years.

But Thurston Adburgham, of the Council to Protect Rural England, said the plan would be "a catastrophe" for the town.

He said: "The developers can build shops, schools, businesses, but they can't guarantee they will staff them. You could end up with a lot of empty shells with 18,000-plus people having to get into their cars from the new homes to continue travelling elsewhere to shop and work.

"A new eastern relief road is only a short term solution. The effect of traffic on existing roads, on C02 emissions, on waste collection, water supplies, on policing, will be catastrophic.

"This would be a totally unsustainable level of development for Leighton."

Town council leader Steve Owen said development of this size would be opposed without the promise of infrastructure.

"We would also want to be sure that any development that does take place is sympathetic to the Green Belt and our views are not necessarily in total agreement at the moment with those of Arnold White.

"But any organisation that is prepared to look in terms of infrastructure is worth talking to and we're happy to do business with. What we do want to ensure is that the town centre not only survives but thrives. If we have continued traffic congestion then people will go elsewhere. We need to ensure it is an attractive place for people to visit."

Cllr Tom Nichols, chairman of the joint planning and transportation committee, said members were surprised at the detailed brief submitted by the ELL Partnership.

He said: "This is a very serious application by the developers. It had never been our intention to focus on Leighton-Linslade as part of the urban growth area but the town council requested it and now the town council has got it.

"This is still in the early stages. We have appointed consultants and it will be going out to public consultation.

"I doubt whether the response from the public will be very positive but we are trapped. We have to find some level of growth. We have to find space for 20,000 houses in the next 15 years and 23,000 a decade after that. Nobody wants these houses in their back yard but we have hard decisions to make."

n Do you think eastern Leighton and the surrounding countryside in neighbouring parishes should be developed? Email or write your response to the plan to anne.cox@lbobserver.co.uk or Leighton Buzzard Observer, 17 Bridge Street, Leighton Buzzard, Beds, LU7 1AH.