Buried River Lea will be uncovered again as contractor is appointed for Luton town centre regeneration scheme

The river will be revealed on the corner of Bute Street and Silver Street on the site of a former car park

By Lynn Hughes
Tuesday, 7th December 2021, 12:33 am
Updated Tuesday, 7th December 2021, 12:36 am

A 'crucial' step forward in a project to revitalise Luton town centre by creating is own riverside park has been made with the announcement of the contractor to carry out the work early next year.

The Town Centre Masterplan was launched this summer and during the extensive consultation period many people supported the idea to open up the River Lea and create 'pocket parks'.

This first stage and a key part of the rejuvenation of the area will reveal the river on the corner of Bute Street and Silver Street on the site of a former car park which was originally home to Victorian pubs and industry, such as hat making.

An artist's impression of the riverside

A small park will feature a stepped terrace down to the river, lots of new planting and trees which will improve the look of one of the town’s busiest pedestrian streets and one of the main walkways into town from the station. It will result in additional improvements to those that have already taken place down Bute Street and other works in the Hat District. Luton Council says the project also has a lot of benefits for ecology and the environment.

Wider future aspirations include a second phase of the Open Lea project which will open it up entirely through this area creating new waterside space and a green corridor. This will also help improve air quality and sustainable drainage. Alongside this, a series of other green corridors will be extended into the town centre and a major tree planting initiative introduced to support significant greening across the centre.

Ryebridge, a Luton-based construction company, has been given the go ahead to carry out the work.

Councillor Sian Goding, portfolio holder for regeneration and inclusive growth at Luton Council, said on Monday: “Not everyone knows the River Lea runs through the middle of the town under roads, buildings and car parks. This is a huge opportunity to help improve the environment, part of the Town Centre Masterplan which will make the area greener, more attractive and offer a wider range of things for people to do so our businesses and residents will ultimately be able to enjoy a more thriving town centre.

“The appointment of Ryebridge is a crucial step forward for this exciting project, which will be one of the first moves we make to help regenerate the town centre. It’s also important as they are a key Luton employer who recruit locally which will mean a number of job opportunities will be made available which helps us achieve our long-term ambition for a town where people can thrive and no-one has to live in poverty."

Daniel Coyle, Managing Director of Ryebridge said: “We are proud to be involved in such a prestigious project in the town centre - this is going to be such a great project for the town and when complete will be a great open space for people to use.

“We are excited to discover the archaeology that we will uncover on a site that was once the Currant and Creak hat factory and prior to that home of a public house, which stood directly over the River Lea. We look forward to engaging with local schools and Barnfield College students during the archaeology, demolition, and reconstruction stages.”

The project is only possible from the key financial help and support of the European Regional Development Fund in contributing £958,201