A HEATED committee meeting saw three controversial planning applications passed in a move some councillors claimedwould turn Luton into a “concrete jungle”.
The applications were for 54 properties in Butely Road, 43 in Bradley Road and 110 in Roebuck Road, – all part of phase two of the New Homes for Luton programme.
Proposals were accepted at the July 25 meeting despite reduced contributions from developers –a total of £492,195 rather than the £1,597,011 that would have been sought.
Conservative Councillor Gilbert Campbell, who left the meeting after the first application was approved, said: “I am so incensed that we are trying to build on every last blade of grass in this town. Can you imagine what it’s going to be like in 10 or 15 years?
“We will just become one big concrete jungle. I am totally against it.”
There are currently 5,000 people on the housing waiting list in Luton.
Labour Councillor Mark Rivers said: “I don’t know why we are in this ridiculous situation, why people love Luton so much that they wish to pack themselves in so intensely but this is the situation we have got. We have a duty to deal with that problem.”
The three sites will be given to Catalyst Housing Group who will pay for the construction, then sell some of the houses keeping others for joint ownership schemes and for affordable rent.
Luton is already around 50 per cent short of the required open playing field space for its population according to The National Playing Fields Association,
The Roebuck Close site development would cover about 31 per cent of a designated County Wildlife Site.
Rowena Fitzgerald from Butely Road said: “We are astonished that every relevant council policy. including Financial Contribution 106, that this development has broken was pushed aside to allow the land-grab of this community’s well-loved and well-used open space.”
Some residents asked why Labour Councillor Tom Shaw was given the opportunity to speak at the meeting when he was not on the list of speakers.
Yasmin Sheikh from the Bradley Road area said: “My worry is that the whole outcome [of the meeting] was pre-determined. No one wanted to stand up to Mr Shaw. This is a Labour initiative and he is a Labour councillor, as were eight of the eleven on that committee. They all had to toe the party line. I am taking this to the ombudsman.”
Members of the public heckled and jeered speakers and described the meeting as “a shambles”.
Liberal Democrat Councillor David Franks said: “I think we are all acutely aware of local need for homes. None of us can be under any illusions about that, but sadly if the offered solution is building on just about every blade of grass across the town then I am sorry we are going to need a better solution.
“Many of the objectors to these developments say they have fond memories of their local open spaces. I suggest they treasure those memories because if the Council carries on as it is going memories will be all they have left.”