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High street protester in chains

23 January 2015


Locked: Victoria Harvey at Church House 

Locked: Victoria Harvey at Church House 

THE daughter of a former sub-dean of Westminster Abbey chained herself to the railings outside Church House last week as part of a long-running protest at plans by the Church Commissioners to build an out-of-town retail park in Leighton Buzzard.

Victoria Harvey, the daughter of Canon Anthony Harvey, who was sub-dean and Archdeacon of Westminster between 1987 and 1999, says that the proposed Grovebury Road retail park would endanger the future of Leighton Buzzard's town centre.

Last year, Miss Harvey sought a judicial review of the Central Bedfordshire District Council's decision to grant planning permission for the development; but this was rejected by the High Court, which said that she had "not demonstrated that there are any arguable grounds of error on the part of the Council".

Miss Harvey argues that the Church Commissioners are ignoring their ethical-investment-policy obligation to be "sensitive to local communities".

"I have tried every democratic and legal means so my only option is direct action," she said, in a statement. "It is disgraceful that the Church Commissioners are breaking their ethical policy for a quick buck at the expense of our local community in Leighton Buzzard. . . Market traders, residents, the town council, local retailers, and local clergy have all opposed this." She said that the development would take a minimum of £2 million each year from existing town centre stores.

The Church Commissioners' head of strategic land investment, John Weir, said: "Our guiding principle from the outset has been to offer real retail choice in Leighton Buzzard, which complements the town centre offer. The development will provide a number of community benefits including the creation of up to 100 jobs, substantial contributions to the town centre, improved transport links, and the potential for up to 15 small start-up business units."

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