Plans for new town centre student flats come under fire

The planned development on Cumberland Street
The planned development on Cumberland Street

Luton Borough Council is set to grant planning permission to a development of 230 student flats – despite repeated warnings that new student accommodation in the town is unsustainable.

Town Hall planning officers have recommended councillors to approve plans from JEDS Investments Ltd for a two-block complex on 1-11 Cumberland Street.

How the site currently looks

How the site currently looks

The proposed development – on the site of engineering firm Deritend – is comprised of 230 student rooms, 26 apartments for key workers and six commercial office units.

It has being opposed by the University of Bedfordshire, which has repeatedly questioned the need for additional student accommodation.

In a letter to the council in December Graham Blake, UoB’s director of facilities and estates, warned that new accommodation has been approved on “flawed assumptions” about the numbers of university students in the town.

He added that further accommodation is ‘unsustainable’ and would risk “the community having such specialist accommodation unoccupied and at risk of deterioration”.

Responding to current plans for Cumberland Street, UoB has reiterated its concerns that Luton already has a surplus of student accommodation.

However LBC planning officers have asserted that though there is a ‘significant’ amount of student rooms still to be built across the town “a case continues to exist that there remains a need for additionalaccommodation in suitable locations near the town centre”.

In a report they added: “There is a consideration that by creating attractive purpose-built accommodation close to the centre students may be less inclined to inhabit dwelling houses, which in turn will free up much needed houses for families.”

The application will be discussed by LBC councillors at a meeting on Wednesday.