Heritage Railway Voices Concerns Over Regional Housing Plans

By Graham Spicer | 28 June 2007
photo of a steam train running through a rural landscape

Part of the Leighton Buzzard Railway that could be affected by new housing developments. © LBR

Leighton Buzzard Railway (LBR) has raised concerns that the government’s home building targets could have a negative impact on local heritage.

It claims the heritage railway could be affected by proposed house building in Luton and South Bedfordshire where 26,300 new homes are planned by 2021.

“While we are probably the first major heritage railway to be confronted with the stark reality of government housing policy, we will certainly not be the last, and by no means all cases will be in the south east of England,” said Mervyn Leah, LBR Chairman.

Several of the area’s development options could impact on the Leighton Buzzard Railway (LBR), one of the country’s leading narrow gauge railways and a popular tourist attraction.

An official three-month consultation period has started, running until the end of September 2007, encouraging public discussion of the options for meeting the development targets.

“I believe the whole heritage community should look at this website, to be prepared for what might be coming their way in the future,” said Mr Leah. “What happens to us will set important precedents elsewhere, so everyone is a stakeholder in this process, not just those who live locally.”

screenshot of the shape your future leaflet

The Shape Your Future consultation process aims to fully involve the local community. © Shape Your Future

The plans set out ten options for home building, spreading the development across different parts of the area. Four of these involve developing the area surrounding the LBR’s ‘country’ section adjoining Vandyke Road, which is currently designated as protected green belt land.

Mr Leah added: “While it is easy to be cynical about public consultation exercises, I believe this is a sincere attempt to inform and engage people in difficult decisions – although the real test will be in the decisions themselves.”

“I am, however, encouraged by the fact that the majority of the options on offer do not pose a direct threat to us.”

Plans outlined in 2005 by the regional assemblies of the East of England, South East and East Midlands set out to rapidly increase the rate of house building in the Milton Keynes and South Midlands Growth Area, of which Luton and South Bedfordshire is a part, aiming to improve the choice and affordability of homes.

The full plans for Luton and South Bedfordshire are available and details of how to get involved in the consultation process are available online at the Shape Your Future website or by phoning 01582 474068.

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