Council planners register ‘significant concerns’ over Hatters’ Newlands Park application

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Luton Borough Council’s strategic planning team have registed their ‘significant concerns’ over Luton Town’s plans to build a mixed used scheme at Newlands Park.

The Hatters recently submitted planning applications for a new stadium at Power Court, plus the scheme on the land adjacent to Junction 10 of the M1, which would include offices, retail space, a hotel and leisure amenities.

In summary, from a strategic planning perspective, the proposals at Stockwood Park raise some significant concerns particularly focussing on potential adverse town centre impacts.

Luton Borough Council’s strategic planning team statement

The development is absolutely crucial to Luton’s bid to build a new stadium at Power Court, with Newlands Park funding most of the new costs for the ground.

However, the advice of the council’s strategic planning team was published on their website earlier this week, in which they raised issues with the plans received, declaring the proposal would be like building a ‘new town centre.’

The statement also stated the planning proposal of the new ground at Power Court and not in Newlands Park are a step away from the original Local Plan, as it said: “With the exception of B1 office uses, the scale of other proposed uses and omission of a football stadium represent a departure from the local plans in terms of the role and function of Stockwood Park and the ambitions for development on this site.

“This is particularly the case in respect of the sub-regional scale of comparison retail development proposed, which appears to be contrary to policy objectives to ensure the vitality of town centre.

“Chapter 9 of LLP1 (extant Luton Local Plan 2001-2011) and paragraph 4.44 of LLP2 clearly explain that sports facilities (of various scales) are the appropriate form of development for the site, with limited ancillary uses to help support the viability of those sports facilities.

“LLP2 (Luton Local Plan 2011-2031) recognises the need for some level of enabling development to support the relocation of the football stadium at Stockwood Park.

“However, the applicant has not, thus far, provided sufficient information to justify the departure from policy in respect of out-of-town uses to support the development of the stadium on an alternative site.

“Similar consideration should also be given to the other main town centre uses being promoted (e.g. hotels and indoor leisure).

“Along with the retail, this will mean that the development effectively becomes a destination of a scale and function similar to being a

new town centre that will draw trade, footfall and investment away from other locations.

“In summary, from a strategic planning perspective, the proposals at Stockwood Park raise some significant concerns particularly focussing on potential adverse town centre impacts.”

The retail and food aspects planned at the Newlands Park appear to be one of the major sticking points, as the statement continued: “Of particular note in this regard is the quantum of retail development.

“The level proposed as part of the planning application appears to be substantially lower than that indicated as part of pre-application proposals, yet the supporting illustrative material suggests that both the pre-app and planning applications are essentially the same.

“This variation in the quantum of retail development needs to be clarified. Is it, for example, that the level envisaged as part of the planning application could be followed by a further phase of growth? If this were to be the case then the retail assessment would significantly underplay the impact.

“Significant weight should be given to the impact of the proposed level of retail on the vitality and viability of existing town centres within Luton and neighbouring authorities.

“This should consider not only current provision but also planned investment such as at Junction 11a and regeneration objectives.

“For example, whilst recognising the applicant’s scheme for development at Power Court, will retail in this location hinder investment in the key regeneration area of Luton town centre between the rail station and The Mall?

“It is understood that White Young Green has been commissioned to provide advice on these matters.”