Mythbusters – Leighton Buzzard Leisure Centre

I was delighted with the announcement from CBC that the proposed new leisure centre for Leighton Buzzard and Linslade had moved on to the consultation stage, and if it is decided to go ahead, a planning application will be submitted by the end of this year.

An artist’s impression of the new leisure centre

The proposal is for a new state-of-art leisure centre, with 3 pools and other sports facilities, on land adjacent to the new link road between Hockliffe Road and Vandyke Road. The £25 million investment will provide much needed facilities to meet the needs of our growing town, and is broadly welcomed by residents.

However, it was somewhat inevitable that the announcement would be met with some resistance and would generate false speculation.

What about Tiddenfoot?

Tiddenfoot Leisure Centre – does not meet the needs of the town and is in a poor state of repair

Even the most diehard supporters of Tiddenfoot Leisure Centre cannot dispute that it is in a poor state of repair and is not fit to meet the needs of the growing town – I have lost count of the number of times the pools are closed due to one technical issue after another. There is no scope to enlarge Tiddenfoot, and the only way to meet the needs of the town is to build a new leisure centre on a new site. The new leisure centre will have the capacity to meet the needs of the whole town. What exactly will happen to Tiddenfoot and when is not clear. There are a number of options that stop well short of complete closure, and we will be exploring options with stakeholders.

So the residents of Linslade won’t have anything?

A lot of my colleagues from Linslade and others seem to forget that more than two-thirds of the residents of Leighton Linslade live in Leighton Buzzard and not in Linslade, and all recent growth has been in Leighton Buzzard whilst Linslade has remained more or less untouched. Yes, the proposed location will be more convenient for the residents of Leighton Buzzard and less convenient for the residents of Linslade, but this is simply a reversal of the situation we now face: Tiddenfoot is convenient for the residents of Linslade but not so convenient for the residents of Leighton Buzzard.

The proposed site is located next to the new relief road, south of Vandyke Road

But that said, the new roads will put the new leisure centre within easy reach of the whole of Leighton Buzzard and Linslade. Lets not forget that Tiddenfoot is more accessible to the residents of Buckinghamshire villages to the west of Linslade that it is to large swathes of the residents of Leighton Buzzard!

And I will do everything possible to ensure the residents of Linslade are served by a bus service that will provide easy and sustainable access to the proposed leisure centre (something the residents of Leighton Buzzard do not have for accessing Tiddenfoot … ).

It will be in Eggington Parish not Leighton Linslade Parish?

Whilst this may be true it is totally irrelevant. This is a CBC project, and is in the new ward of Leighton Linslade North.

This project has been scaled to meet the needs of 70,000 residents of Leighton Buzzard and Linslade, and surrounding Bedfordshire villages – Eggington, Hockliffe, Stanbridge, Tillsworth and more. What matters is its geographical location, not which Council ward it is in.

But we would rather have a police station and health hub

As I wrote a few weeks ago, neither of these are within the gift of Central Bedfordshire Council: a new police station would have to be provided and run by Bedfordshire Police, and whist CBC could build a new health hub (and there is money in the S106 agreement for the eastern development for a GP surgery), the NHS has to staff and run it – which to date they have declined to do so.

Whether we have a leisure centre or not will have no bearing whatsoever on whether we have a police station or a health hub. This is a not a question of one or the other. The two issues are totally unrelated and do not impact on each other in any way.

This is not a choice of a leisure centre or something else. The £25 million allocated to this project is for the provision of leisure facilities, and if not used for that purpose, it will not free up the cash to spend on a police station or health hub: public finances do not work like that!

This is on the land intended for new schools

The proposed site for the leisure centre is within the same parcel of land, but will not impact the provision of the schools. The two will co-exist next to each other, and the leisure centre will provide an excellent facility for both the new schools, and for existing schools.

It is the Tories that have allowed all of this expansion in the town, and this is too little too late

The roots of the expansion we are now seeing around Leighton Buzzard can be traced back 20 or more years, to a time when the Conservatives were not the majority group on LLTC.

The Council put the town forwards for expansion in the mistaken belief it would bring massive investment. It was that one decision that opened the flood gates for the town to be concreted over: once the land was identified for growth, everything else became inevitable and impossible to block. Yes, the actual planning applications came much later, but due to the decisions made by others a decade or more before, it could not be stopped.

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