Anne Cox reports on the launch of 43,000-home public consultation.....
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Where should new estates go? It's time to speak out

Posted on June 19, 2007

Anne Cox reports on the launch of 43,000-home public consultation.

This article was published in June 2007. Please see Latest News for more recent information.

The public is finally having its say on controversial plans to build thousands of homes in Leighton-Linslade - but they're being warned that there is now no stopping the development of the area.

Road-shows, manned by planners and council officers, will be coming to the town and nearby villages in July at the start of a three-month consultation exercise asking for the public's views on where massive new house building should go. There will be leaflets to every house in the district and an informative website. Everyone is being invited to comment.

But what they can't say is that "we don't want it." Councillor Tom Nicols, head of a powerful planning committee charged with finding room for 43,000 homes in Luton and South Beds, said development had to go somewhere in the areas indicated in yellow and purple on the map above, and it was now up to the public to give their opinions on where. "Saying no is not an option," he said.

Where building could be allowed: Click for full sized image
The yellow patches are proposed areas where expansion will be considered. Villages circled with purple could also be in the frame for some development, but the areas finally approved for development may be smaller in size.
Click image for full sized version.

There is a discernable change in tone from the draft consultation document revealed only seven weeks ago on May 1. That suggested that Leighton-Linslade and nearby villages could be completely spared from further development if enough people spoke out strongly against it. Five out of ten option maps shown in the draft did not include any new estates for the town at all and only one option out of ten proposed building in our villages. Half the options indicated that all of the new homes could be fitted around Luton and Dunstable.

Now, however, councillors are talking in a manner that makes clear they would only permit this to happen if they could be persuaded by a very strong, factual case indeed. Realistically, it seems Leighton must expect more estate building - the main questions are how much and where.

The committee had originally been told to site new homes in areas of deprivation - parts of Luton, Dunstable and Houghton Regis - in the hope that the accompanying infrastructure would regenerate the region. Leighton-Linslade had not been included in the equation.

But Ian Slater, Luton Council's head of planning, told a press conference to launch the consultation exercise: "Because Leighton-Linslade Town Council argued strongly that it wanted growth the government suggested we looked at Leighton-Linslade."

Initially the Luton/Dunstable/ Houghton Regis and Leighton-Linslade growth area joint planning and transportation committee asked landowners simply to identify any areas capable of sustaining housing.

While most came back earmarking plots of land in the district, a group of developers, headed by Arnold White and Willis Dawson, went one further and commissioned an in-depth blueprint on expanding the town by a third. They also encouraged local landowners to join their Eastern Leighton-Linslade Partnership with claims of offers of up to £lmillion an acre.

A storm of protest erupted in September after the LBO exclusively revealed details of their planning brief. It suggested a scheme to site at least 6,000 houses (first phase) plus £50million of infrastructure that will include a new arterial duel-carriageway running from the Leighton Bypass to Heath Road, shops, schools, health centre, employment zones and leisure facilities.

Planners from both South Beds and Luton have studied developers' and land-owners representations and have now released an initial blueprint outlining options for growth. The maps for Leighton-Linslade highlight the east Leighton scheme plus two additional pockets of development, off Wing Road and Derwent Road, Linslade. Heath and Reach, Eaton Bray and Hockliffe are also flagged up for limited expansion while the edge of Eggington may be swallowed up by the vast eastern expansion zone.

Cllr Nicols said he wanted the public to come back with their ideas on where building should take place and the density of growth they preferred. He said: "If you go for low density, which people would demand, then we will need more land - people's paddocks will disappear.

"If we have high density then we subject the population to a less than suitable lifestyle. We want the public to give us a sense of balance.

"We won't agree the planning carte blanche. We don't want to see pieces just tacked onto Leighton-Linslade. We need to have key infrastructure in place and to integrate the growth into the existing area."

Mr Slater said the scale of growth was "massive".

"Development of this scale will require thousands of hectares but it is an amazing opportunity for the ' public to become involved," he said.

Building is not expected to begin until 2011.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 19 June 2007

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