Wigmore Park fate sealed as Luton council approves business estate

Controversial plans for an extended access road into Luton Airport and a new business park on the site have been approved.

The London Luton Airport Limited (LLAL) proposals will involve the destruction of Wigmore Park, and were fiercely opposed by local residents and the town’s Liberal Democrats.

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LLAL owns Luton Airport, and its majority shareholder is Luton Borough Council.

The development consists of a new dual carriageway linking New Airport Way (the A1081) with New Century Park on 235 acres of land.

Opponents of the scheme say the new route is designed to serve a second terminal building at the airport, which has still to reach the planning stage.

Environmentalists are upset about the loss of Wigmore Valley Park, which is designated a county wildlife site.

New Century Park will consist of office space, warehousing, industrial units and mixed employment use, as well as a hotel and cafe area.

The 1.2-mile access road would start at a new junction proposed for the A1081, and result in the demolition of 15 commercial buildings located within the airport.

Councillors approved the project by six votes to one at a meeting of the local authority’s development control committee.

David Oakley-Hill, of Luton Friends of the Earth, described Wigmore Park as “a beautiful place and an asset of great community value”.

He said: “The county wildlife site will be completely destroyed. It’s our park.”

Liberal Democrat Wigmore councillor Peter Chapman thanked the residents “for their articulate and passionate support for their area”.

“The way the planning process is being used to look at the big issues in the east of Luton is absolutely wrong,” he said.

“Terminal two totally changes the plans being shown today for Wigmore Park.

“Traffic issues are always being looked at in isolation. It’s a total disgrace.”

The planning application site is within the area covered by the 976-acre Luton Enterprise Zone.

Planning officer David Gurtler told the committee: “The proposed development will create a significant number of jobs and promote economic growth in Luton and the wider region.”

Three reports looked at unexploded ordnance, according to Mr Gurtler.

“It’s a medium risk area,” he said. “But a site evacuation plan will be prepared.”

Planning consultant working in support of LLAL Andrew Walters said it was accepted there will be impacts on the town.

But the applicants applied themselves to producing the best impact for Luton, he explained, by understanding those impacts and mitigating them.

He referred to “the strategic importance of the site we are delivering”, adding: “The committee shouldn’t underestimate the economic benefits of the development.

“These are hundreds of new jobs and a substantial contribution to the local economy and national gross domestic product (GDP).”

Labour Farley councillor Mahmood Hussain said he read all of the objections, but felt the benefits outweigh the impact on the east of Luton.

The application will be referred to the Secretary of State for housing, communities and local government, who can call in the scheme.

If he decides not to, the scheme can be approved under delegated authority to the development control manager.