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Save Leighton Buzzard Town Centre from Grovebury Road retail development

Following the demonstration outside Westminster Abbey on Wednesday 28th May,

there has been a lot of press coverage:

ITV Anglia       Leighton Buzzard Observer       BBC        Telegraph       Church Times

You can still get involved with the campaign!  Any questions contact Victoria on 07815 817108

The retail park is too small to get the shops that are in Milton Keynes or Bletchley

The biggest store proposed in the Grovebury Road retail park is a DIY store and Garden Centre which is only two thirds of the size of Homebase, then there are four stores of about 836 square metres, the same size of TK furniture and then two stores of 604 square metres and a restaurant/cafe.

The retail park will not sell clothes

Cllr Young from Central Bedfordshire Council says in the press that Leighton Buzzard does not lack clothes shops. Cllr Young contradicts the councils experts when he says that Leighton Buzzard is fine for clothes shops, The councils own retail study says that one area of shopping that Leighton Buzzard lacks is Menswear. The survey done for ‘I love Leighton Buzzard’ shows that local residents really want more clothes shops.

Cllr Young says that the retail park will not harm the town as the retail park will only sell bulky goods and Leighton Buzzard is not a bulky goods town.

Leighton Buzzard has two big furniture shops and domestic appliances in the centre of the town, and also if Central Bedfordshire Councils retail study shows that DIY is the second biggest retention of shopping in the town. The percentage of Leighton Buzzard residents who shop in Leighton Buzzard for chemists and beauty 78%, DIY 54%, furniture and soft furnishings cushions etc. 12%, clothes 9%.

The category of bulky goods has nothing to do with bulky goods:  Cllr Young's definition of bulky goods is really misleading as it covers digital cameras and cushions!


Please tweet about the town centre and this protest to Mary Portas, @maryportas, and Bill Grimsey @billgrimsey

Also contact Clive Betts MP, the chair of the all-party Communities and Local Government Committee that deals with planning @clivebettsMP, and our own MP for South West Bedfordshire, Andrew Selous @andrew_selousMP


Further reading:

Protest Leaflet Press Release for 28 May Letter to Archbishop Where it began (2013)

Why Westminster Abbey? 

Westminster Abbey is beside the head office of The Church Commissioners of the Church of England who own the land that the retail park is being built on. We believe that the church commissioners are going against their own ethical policy and this is wrong. The church is supported to support community and be sensitive to the communities that they operate in, but despite the Town Council opposing the retail development and the community forum unanimously opposing it. The church will be be making a profit at the expense of Leighton Buzzard. They openly say it will take £2 million a year from town centre retail trade, and it is likely to be far more. This will risk a High Street with boarded up shops and a real loss of our community spirit like so many towns.

Both the Mary Portas Review and the recent report of the Association of Convenience Stores show that out of town retail is responsible for destroying high streets across the UK. The Chief executive of Association of Convenience Stores, James Lowman said that their report “paints a disturbing picture about planning decisions being driven by developers rather than local people, and destroying high streets up and down the country”.

The proposed retail park on the church commissioner’s land will not offer us anything new but will sell the same items as the town centre. Central Bedfordshire Council will not allow it to sell clothes that we need but everything else that is already sold in our town centre, such as DIY furniture, cycles, Christmas decorations, electrical goods. The retail park cannot attract the big shops such as Dunelm, the Range or Currys as the shops in the retail park will far too small. The shops will be the same size or smaller than TK furniture or Ceejays Electrical  and the proposed DIY store is only two thirds of our existing Homebase. People will still have to go to Milton Keynes for clothes and big stores so the retail park will be fighting to get customers from the town centre. A lot of people are outraged that that the Church of England are doing this to Leighton Buzzard.

The Secretary of  Dunstable and Leighton Buzzard Market Traders Federation Branch, Adrian Harrison  has written to the Church Commissioners saying “We believe that the Church of England and the Christian Faith to be at the forefront of a caring, supportive community with good objective morals and a responsibility to all. The proposed use of this land, we feel, would go against these Christian beliefs and for what......a few pounds in the coffers? But at what cost to the community as a whole?!”

My own father who was Sub Dean of Westminster Abbey is coming to the demonstration to support us because as he says “The Christian Faith is all about mutual service and responsibility in a community. The mission of the Church of England is to be a model of a mutually dependent and caring community. When I see a Christian Agency such as the Church of England apparently abandoning this mission in favour of commercial interests I feel bound to protest.”

It seems to me that the Church of England are supporting a new myth that people should shop out of town by car in an impersonal retail park, and then come into the town for coffee and community events, but people do not have the time to do both. Shopping is both a necessity and a new leisure activity and if it takes place in a town centre, community events can take place alongside it and shoppers get to know the local shops keepers and market traders who put them in touch with other groups and community is born. Contrary to the myth of cheap retail parks, our independent shops for furniture, domestic appliances, and crafts etc in my experience have worked out much cheaper than retail parks often with delivery, installation and taking away the old item all for free. Local shop keepers and market stall holders often provide invaluable listening and social support and community creation to many people. The town centre on market days is a social hub for many pensioners who cannot afford to get out otherwise.

Victoria Harvey, May 1014


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