THE controversial sale of the Drill Hall site in High Town to a Muslim group has been axed, with Luton Borough Council announcing yesterday (Dec 21) that homes will be built there instead.
At a secret meeting last week, members of the council’s executive decided that the site should be used for housing, rather than be sold to the Shia Muslim Masjid-e-Ali group for £1.5 million.
A spokesman for the group said its members were “extremely disappointed” by the decision.
The council had agreed to sell the site to the group for use as a community centre, but suspended the sale earlier this year after rumours were circulated in Luton by the English Defence League that the new building would be a ‘High Town Super-Mosque’.
A campaign followed by a group called House the People for new affordable homes to built on the site.
The council said the sale was suspended because of new policy guidance from Whitehall on the sale of buildings owned by local authorities.
A task group consisting of council leader Hazel Simmons and two other Labour executive members was set up in September to look at the best future use of the site.
They spoke to local residents and community groups including the Masjid-e-Ali, who are currently based in Moor Street.
Cllr Simmons said the decision reflected the council’s commitment to providing affordable housing, adding: “Our goal is to maximise the potential for regeneration in this area with a scheme that is supported by the local and wider community.”
She continued: “This has been a long and challenging process and the decision we have made at the end of it reflects the council’s commitment to doing everything it can to continue to provide new and much-needed affordable housing in Luton. This remains an absolute priority.”
The council says the homes on the site will be a mixture of “affordable and private market dwellings”.