In developing our proposal for the area, we considered the studies undertaken, the engagement feedback and our objectives. It is important to remember there is no funding for the Council to develop the sites so one of the key objectives was to develop an approach that could deliver the maximum benefits to the town without costing the Council or the taxpayer.
We want to transform the area south of the High Street. There are some parcels of Council owned land that are unused, and the Westlands Care Home and Day Centre will soon sit empty. We want to make the best use of these Council resources for the benefit of the town.
The market insight work has shown that, at this current time, the most likely demand for the land is residential led mixed-use. Residential use would mean more people living, working and spending their money in Leighton Buzzard town which will help to ensure the town continues to be a thriving, bustling and vibrant place.
Future redevelopment is likely to be new homes. A residential led mixed-use site could include a small amount of additional retail, whilst avoiding over-providing retail which could lead to empty units and undermine the success of the High Street. Through our community engagement work we have been told there is a strong desire for a community / cultural facility in the town.
A study of public car parks across the town has shown that there is an over provision of car parking spaces. Even on peak days car parking spaces sit empty and we want to make the best use of underused car park space for the benefit of the town. Although Duncombe Drive car park is well used, because there is plenty of parking elsewhere in the town, consideration is being given to releasing some of Duncombe Drive car park space to increase the amount of space that could be redeveloped.
The benefits of increasing the size of the redevelopment land are two-fold. It makes it a much more attractive opportunity for developers to invest in and gives us the best chance of making the biggest difference to the town and gives more opportunity to explore whether a new community / cultural facility is a possibility.
Our proposal for the site is to keep 30% (42 spaces) of the car parking spaces at Duncombe Drive car park and include 70% (97 spaces) of Duncombe Drive car park in the land available for development.
Car parking in our proposal has been retained at around 80% of the total current provision across the town, which aligns with parking study findings regarding the parking capacity required.
The proposed approach above strikes the best balance between delivering the maximum benefits for the town, retaining positive community amenities such as car parking and exploring a new community / cultural facility in the town centre without costing the taxpayer.
Important points to note
The Council is at an early stage in its thinking for the area and cannot be certain about the exact nature of the development at this stage. The work we have done has given confidence that the area can be developed and what is most likely to be deliverable now is residential led mixed-use.
Releasing some of Duncombe Drive car park land is an important step, but there will be further steps and decisions along the way.
Any future proposed development of the sites would need planning permission, and this would involve a public consultation. As part of the planning process, any development would need to consider its own parking provision.
The Council is not proposing to build a community /cultural centre. A community / cultural facility would need to be self-sufficient financially so that it does not cost the taxpayer.
If any income is generated from future development this would help fund other council priorities.