Top councillor looks at extending Luton-Dunstable busway to Leighton Buzzard

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AN extension of the controversial Luton-Dunstable guided busway to Leighton Buzzard is being considered at top council levels.

The £90million busway, linking Luton Airport Parkway Station with Houghton Regis, is on track to open in April next year.

Councillor Nigel Young, a member of the executive at Central Bedfordshire Council, said: "There are longer term aspirations to link the busway to Leighton Buzzard, forming a link from the railway station to Luton Airport."

Mr Young was speaking about the council's long term vision at a Bedfordshire Chamber of Commerce-organised meeting at Dunstable's Old Palace Lodge, in Church Street, on Thursday (May 3).

Mr Young told the meeting of about 50 people the council is also keen on getting the busway to run directly to Luton airport.

The busway, referred to as the 'misguided busway' by opponents, is central to the council's strategy to improve Dunstable over the next 10 years. That plan is on the agenda for discussion by Central Bedfordshire Council's sustainable communities overview and scrutiny committee on May 16.

The strategy includes building 7,000 homes to the north of Houghton Regis, doubling the population of the town to some 34,000. The thinking is that the busway will make it possible for people to commute into new jobs at an expanding Luton airport in minutes and into London in less than one hour. But the hope is that they would spend some of their cash in Dunstable, giving it an economic kick-start.

"Dunstable is at the top of the list," said Mr Young. "There is no greater priority for Central Bedfordshire Council than the regeneration of Dunstable."

In June the council will start working on the first of a series of busway-linked traffic schemes involving 20mph speed limits, road redesign and the removal of pedestrian crossings and traffic lights. The £750,000 so called Shared Space project will be part paid for by busway money.

Mr Young's robustly positive message was welcomed by Brian Hibbert, the chairman of Bedfordshire Chamber of Commerce. He said he hoped the apporach would be the start of a wider communication between businesses and the council.

Businesspeople at the meeting were also generally positive about the busway scheme.

Janet Theodore, of My Heathy Lifestyle, in Westbury Close, Houghton Regis, said the busway would make it easier for her part-time staff, who are mums without cars, to get to work.

Richard Cooper, director of Dunstable-based ASA Business Development, welcomed the 'comprehensive and ambitious' plan and the strategy to achieve it. "It is a good plan and there is a need to communicate it," he added.

And Peter Evans, of Peter Evans Studios, makers of film props and scenery, in Tavistock Street, Dunstable, said he was looking forward to his customers being able to get to him via the busway.