The paper on the public consultation on the proposed boundary change between Leighton-Linslade and Eggington was presented at Thursday’s meeting of General Purposes.
Currently, the new housing to the east of Leighton Buzzard is in Eggington Parish.
However, in every other respect they are part of Leighton Buzzard: they are sold as being in Leighton Buzzard, they have an address that is ‘Leighton Buzzard’, they are attached to Leighton Buzzard and the residents use the town’s facilities.
The elephant in the room here is money. Yes, currently the Parish Precept (Council Tax) is lower for residents of Eggington Parish compared to Leighton-Linslade (by approx. £90 per year for a band D property).
However, it is extremely unlikely Eggington Parish will be able to maintain this low precept going forward and will have to raise more money to pay for the additional costs incurred by the new housing. And this increase will affect the existing residents of the village too.
Just to be clear for anyone who doubts the extra workload and costs these new houses will place on Eggington Parish Council – they will need to provide and maintain a cemetery for the residents of these developments. They will need to maintain playparks and public spaces. They will need to empty dog waste bins. They will have to provide and maintain allotments. They will have to maintain community facilities.
In practice, this will mean full time staff, office space, plant machinery, increased overheads such as pensions and insurance. Eggington Parish Council will cease to be a small rural parish Council run by volunteers, meeting once a month, and will need to rapidly upscale into a small Town Council.
And whilst I have no doubt the existing Councillors on Eggington Parish Council have the wherewithal to do this, the question is whether they want to do this and whether it is in the best interests of the current residents of Eggington village.
Leighton Linslade Town Council has a budget of over £2.2 million and already has in place the staffing and infrastructure to support these new houses.
The most recent accounts for Eggington Parish Council (as shown on their website) show a precept of £6200 for 2017/18, and their assets as of March 2018 were listed as ‘three bench seats, two village notice boards and a VASI sign’ worth £18,430.
Some people will also argue this is about the allocation of S106 money, but that is not the case. The allocation of S106 would not be affected by this change, and regardless of where the Parish boundary is, that money will be used to provide facilities and infrastructure for the benefit of the new development.
Most importantly, this is about democratic representation.
For the existing residents of Eggington, the new housing dwarfs the existing village. The representation on your Parish Council will change, and the residents of the new housing will significantly ‘out represent’ you. The recent Central Bedfordshire (Electoral Changes) Order 2021 put before Parliament split Eggington Parish into two electoral wards, with the Village having 2 seats and Clipstone (the new housing) having 5. In the future, it will be their views and opinions that count, not yours’!
This new housing development, if it remains in Eggington Parish, is an existential threat to your identity as a small rural community. Eggington will no longer be a village: it will be a housing estate on the edge of Leighton Buzzard.
And to the new residents of Clipstone Park and beyond, you will be using the facilities and services of Leighton Buzzard. But if you remain in Eggington Parish, you will have no representation on Leighton Linslade Town Council. You will have no voice on local issues that will affect you.
The development to the east of Leighton Buzzard will increase the population of the town by as much as 20% or possibly more. It would be ridiculous if one-fifth of the town’s population were unrepresented on the Town Council.
The proposed boundary change has unanimous cross-party support from all LLTC Councillors. We want the residents of these new developments to be a proper part of our local community, but this can only be achieved with full representation on LLTC – which can only come about if the boundary change gets the full support of local residents.
Since Thursday’s meeting, several threads have appeared on social media attacking LLTC’s position on this. An ‘independent’ Councillor from Houghton Regis has claimed this proposal is to allow “their new Leisure Centre to be built on Eggington Parish land”. I am not sure whether this false statement is intended to deliberately mislead local residents, or is simply down to a failure to understand the facts.
Notwithstanding that no site has been confirmed for the new Leisure Centre, the location of the parish boundary is irrelevant. Whether it is in Eggington or Leighton-Linslade Parish, it is a CBC project using CBC money.
And as for his other claim that the funds have been taken from Houghton Regis, this is again misleading and does not recognise the extensive development that Leighton-Linslade has seen over the past decade, the poor state of repair of Tiddenfoot Leisure Centre or the fact that Houghton Regis is within a stone’s throw of the brand new leisure centre in Dunstable.