Luton BID reiterate its support for Hatters’ plans for Power Court and Newlands Park, but wants concerns addressed

An overview of the plans for Newlands Park
An overview of the plans for Newlands Park

Luton BID has today stated that it remains in support of Luton Town’s planned developments at Power Court and Newlands Park, subject to several concerns being addressed.

The business consortium first pledged its backing for the Hatters’ plans for a town centre stadium and enabling office/leisure/retail development near M1 J10 in October 2016, a couple of months after the applications were submitted to Luton Borough Council.

But following the publication of recent retail assessments on how Newlands might impact on the town centre, Luton BID wanted to recanvass its members to see if its stance should change.

In a statement issued today (Thursday), Luton BID’s board of directors say they still endorse the schemes, but have listed a number of concerns – albeit similar issues to those identified when they first gave support in 2016.

Their statement reads: “With regards to the Newlands Park development, Luton BID Board is aware that the development of Power Court cannot proceed without the development at the Newlands Park site, and in light of the Retail Impact Report published 13 July 2018, we make additional comments to clarify and extend the recommendations we made in October 2016.

“One of the key concerns is that the Newlands Park retail and leisure space, anchored by the quality department store, would inevitably compete with the town centre.

“It is imperative that the development of both sites complement the use of the town centre and does not create any detrimental economic impact but instead supports its economic development.

“We would request that the following recommendations are taken into account to enable the two proposed developments to have the potential to raise the standards in the town and help improve the overall perception of the town centre.

“The lack of provision for office space on Power Court...

“There is currently no provision for office space on Power Court. Although commercial rents have not stacked up to refurbish some of the older office accommodation in the town centre with older office space being converted to residential through the permitted development rights, regeneration could lead to potential increase in demand for this vital component of any town centre economy.

“Luton town centre is currently lacking in Grade A office space and Power Court potentially offers an opportunity to office based businesses looking to use access to the improved bus, rail and air services now on offer in Luton. We understood from 2020 Developments in 2016 that office space and a potential businesses incubator are under consideration, but no further details have yet been disclosed.

“Parking provision at Power Court...

“Availability of parking for business owners within the town centre is limited. Luton BID requests that consideration is given to provide some dedicated parking for businesses at Power Court for the use of businesses in the rest of Luton town centre.

“2020 Developments have confirmed in 2016 that they will be providing parking for the benefit of the town centre, although information has not been provided on how this addresses this specific request.

“Impact of football traffic and crowds on the town centre on match days...

“Whilst it is noted that the Transport Position Statement March 2018 considers that ‘the Proposed Development at Power Court can be accommodated satisfactorily on the local highway network without any severe residual cumulative effects occurring’, Luton BID believes that there is a possibility that on match days, football traffic and crowds could deter shoppers from coming into the town centre.

“It should be noted that Saturdays are key trading days for businesses and leisure engagement in the town centre. Luton BID would request that urgent consideration is given to how this is managed to ensure that the town centre businesses are not detrimentally affected on match days.

“Complementing the town centre offer and minimising the impact of competing offers...

It is imperative that the mix of businesses at both Power Court and Newlands Park complements those in the town centre and the management of this is imperative. Luton BID wish to request that there is some way of ensuring that the leisure offer at Newlands Park is not given an unfair advantage against the leisure offer in the town centre.

“We ask that the proposed no poaching agreement on retail should be extensive and include key leisure businesses. Any proposed cinema should have an alternative offer that will complete and not compete with that of the existing town centre cinema.

“We would request that there is consultation with the Cultural Trust and wider sector on complementary cultural programmes and leisure offerings at Power Court as they are developed (music venue, any creative workspace, small-scale cinema) with a formal understanding of supporting rather than competing with our existing/emerging offer.

“To ensure that the impact on town centre businesses with regards to retail and leisure displacement is minimised, a form of supporting funding for the town centre should be put in place to compensate and there should be a focus on efforts and resources to enable the town centre to develop its own offer. The BID is very keen to support partners in the creation of a new town centre plan.

“Parking charges at Newlands Park...

“Luton BID asks that a plan be put in place to create parity in parking prices between the town and at Newlands Park charges to make sure any competition is on an even footing.

“We understood from 2020 Developments in 2016 that there will be charges for parking at Newlands Park. We would also suggest that a detailed car parking strategy is developed with all partners to consider displacement and to identify a coordinated and managed scheme for all the carparks in the area and town centre.

“Luton BID requests that through the contractual obligations for the development, the developers identify projects and are required to commit funding to enable older buildings and sites to be developed/ refurbished and invest in public realm to improve the perception of Luton Town Centre and enable it to complement the developments at Newlands Park and Power Court on a more even footing.”