Plans for two public squares and up to 750 new homes have been laid out in a bold vision for the future of High Town.
A newly-updated masterplan for the ward details proposals to transform the car park on High Town Road into a open space large enough to host festivals, markets, exhibitions and other cultural events.
A currently under-utilised slot of land on Welbeck Road is also being eyed as a smaller public square, while loose plans for up to 750 new homes are also in the works.
The masterplan – commissioned by Luton Borough Council and drawn up by architecture firm BDP – is now in its final stages but is set to come under further scrutiny during a six week public consultation.
If successful the plan will then be adopted by the council as a supplementary planning document, which will compliment the town’s Local Plan.
In a report on the masterplan, LBC officer David Carter states that recent activity in High Town suggests that the ward “could be on the cusp of a significant wave of developer activity”.
The plan could both stimulate further growth and have ‘significant’ influence on external investment in the ward, Mr Carter adds.
Speaking to the Luton News LBC’s portfolio holder for housing, Cllr Tom Shaw, said: “With the station there is no reason why it can’t be one of the most important parts of Luton, a destination that people want to go to.
“We have spent the last 18 months working on it and it can only be good for High Town.
“The area has had one or two plans in the past but this one is doable over a period of time and just needs everyone working together.
“The public consultation is an important part of that.”
Cllr Shaw added: “Two years ago we sat down with people from Derby for a roundtable discussion and what came out of it was them describing how they went a different way by putting together a complete neighbourhood plan for an area.
“When they described the area we instantly thought about High Town as it was behind a train station, had Victorian houses, factory units, as well as newer buildings.
“We thought, if they can do it why can’t we?”
BDP’s masterplan lists nine key development sites across High Town, which planners say could yield 598 residential units (187 homes and 411 apartments).
The majority of this figure comes from six sub plots around Midland Road which would give enough space for 47 houses and 189 apartments.
The plan also suggests that though it is a ‘fragmented’ site, Brunswick Street is another road could sustain large residential developments totalling 25 houses and 104 apartments.
At present much of High Town’s ‘East Village’ is made up of industrial units and if the masterplan is recognised poorly performing employment accommodation in the area will be ‘displaced’.
The masterplan acknowledges that this may cause problems as “some owners will seek unrealistically high values for their land, extinguishment payments for the closure of their business and others will fight redevelopment plans.”
The document will be discussed at a meeting of LBC’s executive committee on Monday night, when councillors will also consider setting up a delivery group “to provide the momentum to ensure effective implementation” of the masterplan.