Third worst town in UK? Luton fights back over poll which is a 'real kick in the teeth' to community
And it came at the same time as the town was praised in a study for its approach to helping independent businesses.
The annual poll from I Live Here, a website which encourages people to complain about their town, and classes itself as an entertainment site, said just over 110,000 of its readers have voted for the worst 50 areas, placing Luton third and Aylesbury in the top spot. It does not reveal how many people voted for each town.
But in The Indie Economy Index, Luton came 16th in the country, with the report by Bionic saying: "Luton is among the UK towns with the highest growth in new business within the past five years."
Both Luton Council and Luton Bid have condemned the worst towns survey.
A spokesman for Luton Council said: "Our town may not be perfect but this poll, which has been set up purely for entertainment purposes, is a real kick in the teeth to the many thousands of people across our voluntary, community, business and public sectors who dedicate their lives to making the town a better place.
"While we fully appreciate that Luton faces a number of challenges, many which have been exacerbated by the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are proud of the response of the many residents who have taken to social media to rightly rubbish this poll, which allowed people who don’t live or have never visited Luton to vote for our town."
And Julia Horsman, Luton Bid Manager, said: “The report that states that Luton is the third worst place to live is contradictory, and we disagree and even question its credibility. Our town really does have so much to offer the 218,000+ people who choose to live here – and much more than people think in terms of investment opportunities, history, culture, and arts.
“With the exciting news that Luton will receive £20 million from the Levelling Up Fund to proceed with a regeneration development in Bute Street, alongside the approval of plans for Luton Town Football Club’s Power Court stadium development in the heart of the town centre, the future is certainly looking bright for our business community, and for residents and visitors alike.
“We are already working with partners on some really exciting initiatives and events for 2022 which will shine a light on everything that is fantastic about our town.”
She added: “It is really encouraging to see that Luton has ranked so well on the best UK cities for independent businesses. Our local shops, hospitality and leisure venues have shown such great resilience, strength, and growth recently, which has been proven with other great rankings for our town in the past 12 months, such as having one of the UK’s best retail recoveries."
Regarding the independent business study, a spokesman for the council said: "Luton’s sectoral profile, specifically a local economy dominated by aviation, retail and hospitality, meant that the town’s 7,700 businesses were disproportionally affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The impact was particularly acute when it is noted that 98.3% of these are small (10-49 employees) and micro (under 10 employees) businesses.
"The Indie Economy Index report reflects the strength of the rebound that our local economy is undertaking as we adjust to the pandemic. Luton often features as one of the top places for independent businesses, scoring highly across a raft of indicators. In previous surveys undertaken, Luton was cited as being the 4th most entrepreneurial area of the country (UK Vitality Index report) and the 13th best area in the country, out of 60 major towns and cities, for our business environment. (Centre for Cities).
"These indicators demonstrate a promising foundation for our future plans in the town to ensure Luton is a place where people can thrive. For example we have launched our Town Centre Masterplan which will have an impact across the rest of the town and includes opening up the River Lea and adding more green space after we secured more than £950k from the European Regional Development Fund. We have also secured £20 million from the Levelling Up Fund to redevelop the area where Bute Street car park sits which will include 372 homes, new community, retail and business spaces, an auditorium and a cycle hub. Plans have also been approved for the development of the Power Court development, the new home of Luton Town FC and we are talking to a number of land owners and stakeholders about bringing forward other developments on various key sites.
The Indie Economy Index said: "Luton ranks in 16th place with a score of 54 out of 100 in our index of the best cities for independents, proving to be a great place to start your own business! The data showed that Luton had 334 active businesses per 10,000 population and one of the highest levels of people commuting by walking of all the UK cities analysed at 12.6% - great to get your steps in for a day's work!
"Luton is great for small businesses, however renting a business space in this town will cost hopeful business owners an average of £113 per m2 - so you will need some savings set aside to set up shop in this city!
"Across the UK the rise in small businesses has increased and Luton is among the UK towns with the highest growth in new business within the past five years, with a 38.2% survival rate."
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