Long-term lease of Luton's Wigmore Park agreed ahead of future airport expansion

There were 101 separate objections, with a 'clear majority' of these opposed to the loss or relocation of the park

By Euan Duncan
Thursday, 10th February 2022, 3:01 pm
Updated Thursday, 10th February 2022, 3:02 pm

Jobs and income from the future expansion of London Luton Airport are the driving force behind a decision by the borough council to lease Wigmore Valley Park to its airport company.

Planning approval for the Century Park access road (CPAR) and the New Century Park commercial development on part of the park was obtained in February 2021.

This included creating a new public open space to the east of the 96-acre Wigmore Valley Park.

Wigmore Valley Park (Google)

Luton Rising (formerly London Luton Airport Limited) has held a short-term licence, renewed twice since 2016/17, according to a report to the council's executive.

"It doesn't permit the company to do any significant works in the park, as there's no exclusive possession of the land," said the report.

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The executive met last night, (Weds 9th) to consider representations to a public notice over the potential lease arrangement.

"Following this process, the requirements of the relevant sections of the Localism Act 2011 would need to be complied with, as Wigmore Valley Park is registered as an asset of community value," added the report.

"The grant of a long-term lease of the park meets its long-term objective of securing a development consent order (DCO) to expand and improve the airport.

"This will also ensure employment opportunities and revenue for Luton and the greater regional area."

LBC received 101 separate objections to the long-term lease plan, with a "clear majority" of these opposed to the loss or relocation of the park.

Andrew Lambourne, from Luton and District Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise, said in a statement: "The proposal to dispose of the park in this way has been overwhelmingly rejected by the people who use and value it as an open green space.

"It's clear Luton Rising's proposal to replace the park with a narrow strip of comparatively sterile agricultural land is no substitute for a mature eco-system.

"There's no pressing need to make this decision now. And to do so without being absolutely sure about the financial state of Luton Rising might not look good."

Liberal Democrat Stopsley councillor David Wynn said in a statement: "The latest proposals from Luton Rising involve less disruption to Wigmore Valley Park.

"But I would like you to consider why it's necessary to proceed with a leasing arrangement at this time. There's no real urgency."

Liberal Democrat Barnfield councillor David Franks said: "The opposition group isn't opposed to airport expansion in principle.

"Our big problem is that you can expand without covering Wigmore Valley Park in concrete. The alternatives might be more expensive.

"Once again you're going for the cheapest option, not the best for both the environment and the community."

Commercial real estate agents Avison Young provided a rental figure for the completed scheme, based on market rents, if the approved planning consent for the Century Park access road scheme was built out.

In a separate report to the executive from the firm, it said: "Based on our assessment, this produces an overall market rent of £10,800,000 per annum assuming it's fully occupied."

Further figures have been redacted from reports to the committee as the issue was originally considered in private.

Describing the airport as "our lifeline", Labour Lewsey councillor Aslam Khan said: "The executive has considered this already, as it's gone through the planning approval process, and resolved to proceed with the disposal, subject to certain conditions.

"We're ambitious and we'll be setting milestones legally to achieve and ensure the airport has a positive impact on our environment."

The executive agreed to continue with the disposal process for the park.