When I speak to residents, the second biggest issue in the town (after policing and crime) is the expansion of Leighton Buzzard and Linslade. This concern is reflected in many of the comments on the various local Facebook groups.
Directly related to the new developments – some completed, several ongoing – is the lack of new facilities and the increasing congestion.
There is a long history to what we see happening in the town now, stemming from a poor decision made many years ago (back in the days of South Bedfordshire District Council) when some of the Town’s Councillors (who are no longer on either Leighton Linslade Town Council – LLTC – or Central Bedfordshire Council – CBC) put the town forward as an area for development.
This resulted in sites around the town being identified as development sites – and the development we now see being built to the east and north of Leighton Buzzard is the direct result of those decisions.
The first development to come forward for planning permission was what is now Billington Park, Sandhills and Roman Gate (i.e. the southern developments). The application for this development was not supported by local Councillors, but planning permission was granted on appeal by the Planning Inspector.
The consequence of this was not only was the decision to grant planning permission taken out of the hands of locally elected representatives, but the S106 agreement (to provide amenities, roads, schools etc) was significantly watered down.
It has taken many years to get the developers to deliver on their obligations to provide community facilities in southern Leighton Buzzard. However, after much lobbying by local residents and Councillors, we do now have some of what was promised:
- Astral Parks Sports and Community Centre
- Greenleas School at Kestrel Way
- Greenfields Extra Care centre, including the Cod and Waffle restaurant
- Sainsburys (Billington Road) and Co-op (Stanbridge Road)
- Astral Lake Park
In addition, the Grovebury Road retail park is now partly opened, with the much anticipated Marks and Spencer Foodhall, B & M, Pets at Home, Tops Tiles, and Subway already open, with Aldi, Costa Coffee and KFC to follow shortly.
The battle to get the roads on these developments adopted (and hence maintained) by CBC continues. Once the developers have brought the roads up to ‘adoption standard’, CBC will assume responsibility.
New developments to the east and north of Leighton Buzzard are now well underway. Having learned from the lessons of the past, we have engaged with the developers and Central Bedfordshire Council at an early stage to ensure we get supporting infrastructure and facilities with this new development.
The construction of the eastern relief road is to be brought forwards, with significant work already underway on the junction of Stanbridge Road and the southern bypass, and at other points along the route of the road.
Plans have been agreed for the expansion of Vandyke Upper and Gilbert Inglefield Middle Schools, and for new Lower School places.
We are working with CBC and the Clinical Commissioning Group to provide a Health Hub in the town, with 3 possible sites already identified.
I share the anger of many residents who feel the town is becoming swamped by unsustainable development. Sadly, it was never going to be possible to block the current developments altogether. However, I am committed to ensuring current and any future developments are delivered with all the necessary infrastructure and facilities, and in a way as to minimise the impact on the existing community.