Capital & Regional says independent retail report for Newlands Park proves harmful impact on town centre

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The Mall
The owners of the Mall Luton insist the newly-released independent retail impact assessment for Newlands Park proves that Hatters' scheme would be harmful to the town centre.

Welcoming the Luton Borough Council-commissioned Chase and Partners document being made public this week, Capital & Regional say it has shown that the ‘aspirational’ retail claim for Newlands does not stand up to scrutiny and a mass market retail offer would be needed to make the proposed scheme work.

They point out that with this direct competition for the same retailers, the Chase report concludes that there would be an “adverse” impact which would be a “real threat” to Luton town centre with notable impact on other towns including St Albans and Harpenden.

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C&R add: “Chase’s report draws the same conclusion of harm to Luton town centre as the council’s retail planning consultants but from a different technical perspective. The previous council-commissioned WYG report had already suggested significant negative impact on Luton and Dunstable as well.”

The Chase report suggests a five-year non-poaching agreement to prevent town centre business relocating to Newlands and recommends that legal advice is taken to establish the enforceabilty of such contracts.

But C&R state: “In order to try to mitigate this harmful impact, Chase proposes a number of technical solutions including restrictions on which retail brands could be approached, non-poaching agreements and a retailer exclusion list.

“Chase points out that these are likely to be problematic. There are no quoted examples of such an approach working in practice anywhere in the UK. To have to consider them at all highlights a real issue of harmful retail impact.”

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Capital & Regional has also called on the council to explain why it has taken four months since the Chase report was received for the authority to put it into the public domain.

They also wish to know why the report is heavily blanked out/redacted as they believe there is no reasonable basis for this.

And they are demanding to know about other key paperwork being made public, adding: “Even today, still not in the public domain is the promised council-commissioned [WYG] final retail impact assessment, nor the crucial viability and funding reports produced by 2020 which are being held in secret.”

The site near J10 of the M1 would boast 42,000sq metres of office space, 13,000sq metres of hotel accommodation, 16,000sq metre of leisure, and 37,000sq metres for retail.

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The C&R statement added: “Overall, the only point of difference between 2020 and Capital & Regional is that we cannot support a very large-scale 805,000 square feet retail and leisure development at Newlands which is not only against national and local planning policy but would also potentially have a very detrimental impact on Luton town centre and the employment within it.

“We have offered to work with 2020 Developments and Luton Town to help make the Power Court stadium proposals a success, as well as to help find other policy compliant developments at Newlands and, if necessary, to source other funding options if there is a shortfall for the stadium funding. That offer remains on the table.”

Luton Town has been approached by this website for comment, but has been unable to respond on the report findings so far.