Will this bright idea attract more visitors to Leighton Buzzard?

An example of lighting up trees
An example of lighting up trees

Leighton Buzzard has seen the light on how to attract more visitors into the heart of town – by splashing out an estimated £93,000 on illuminating key buildings.

“Fun and dynamic” light projections are also being lined up for Waterborne Walk under the scheme, with the possibility of buzzards being projected on to the pavement to add character.

No.2 High Street, and the impressive tree at the end of the High Street which would be lit under the scheme being proposed

No.2 High Street, and the impressive tree at the end of the High Street which would be lit under the scheme being proposed

Leighton-Linslade Town Council has been handed £46,500 from Central Beds Council’s Market Town Regeneration Fund and has match-funded the rest itself which will also go towards running costs and maintenance of equipment up to 2022.

A report by London-based consultants Sutton Vane Associates reveals the suggested illumination plan:

> Lloyds Bank: Fine building with strong architectural features, would have a subtle wash of light for its presence to stand out well at night. The Oculus would be backlit.

> The Old Fire Station/Pizza Express: Clock face lit more effectively to bring out gold colouring detail and brightening the white tower behind it. Backlighting of large central window .

> The Swan Hotel: Imposing Grade II listed building. Lighting up the “rather characterful” swan which is lost to the night.

> Waterborne Walk: Quirky and interesting lighting effects. Suggestions include buzzards, geometric pattens and colours.

> Tree at start of High Street: Lighting this would give a “warm and welcoming” entrance.

> No.2 High Street: Washing light up the fins of the building. White for everyday presentation, and coloured for special occasions.

> All Saints Spire: Upgrade to lighting.

Regarding the Lloyds/old fire station/Swan area, the consultants state: “A cluster of buildings around the Market Cross have been selected to form an outdoor triangle of light. These buildings speak of the town’s history and we propose to light them with respect.”

With regards to Waterborne Walk, their report adds: “Leighton Buzzard also has a youthful element and a family market in the heart of town. To add a more playful and comtempory feel we have added some light projections in Waterborne Walk.

“The addition of light would lift the street, attracting people towards the street and through towards Waitrose, making what may just be seen as a walkway, a memorable element of the town.

“By using quirky and interesting lighting effects, the space would become far more fun and dynamic. The variety of projections that could be used is extremely wide. Potentially buzzards could be projected, strengthening the town’s identity and adding character.”

No.2 High Street and its neighbouring tree will also be “brought to life” with illumination. “The building with its light colour material also acts as a noticeboard for coloured light to be applied to mark events,” says the report.

“Although it is not perceived as something of great beauty during the day, this (No.2) can be magically transformed with the use of light in the evenings.

“The building has strong architectural features by way of its tall vertical fins. By washing light up each of these fins the building can be brought to life. This would ensure visitors are welcomed into town with real impact, creating a great first impression.

“The tree is usually lit at Christmas but to have it illuminated as a feature all year round would draw visitors to the town.

All Saints Church spire is described as “a beacon marking the town from afar”. The plan is to use new technology for updated lighting, saving the church energy and maintenance costs due to the use of efficient LEDs.

The consultants add: “The coloured flags that flank the High Street add a jolly and eventful air to the town during the day, we would propose echoing this at night with perhaps glowing bunting or festoons of light, exact locations to be decided, a fun finishing touch should budget allow.”

Members of the town council’s Cultural & Economic Services Committee have agreed ‘in principle’ to endorse the project, once agreements with owners/tenants of the properties affected have been reached.

The council will ask Sutton Vane Associates to finalise the scheme details and draw up installation specifications and planning application information where necessary.

Gennaro Borrelli, chairman of independent traders’ group LB First, said he welcome the scheme.

He said: “Anything that is a bit different, that makes the town a talking point is good. It raises our profile and shows we are forward thinking. Whether you’re coming in for shopping or leisure you can appreciate the various buildings lit up.

“We have new restaurants opening up in the town centre and some cafes are open in an evening. It changes the nature of people who would be coming into the town centre.

“ The High Street is evolving. It’s moving away from just bars and clubs and switching to fine dining and nice bars and cafes. It’s where people feel in a safe environment in a nice town centre with a variety of choice and that’s a good thing.

“There are the library theatre shows and films, and the parks are accessible in the evening too.

“There’s been investment with the new premises being opened and this has a snowball effect and we have a very low shop vacancy rate.”

What do you think? Email news@lbobserver.co.uk