C&R’s vision for ‘Reshaping Luton Town Centre’ reignites debate about Newlands Park

An artist's impression of The Mall and Power Court Stadium from C&R's vision document
An artist's impression of The Mall and Power Court Stadium from C&R's vision document

The owners of The Mall have submitted a proposal for ‘Reshaping Luton Town Centre’ which controversially incorporates Power Court Stadium without Newlands Park.

Capital & Regional’s opposition to an out-of-town shopping/leisure/office development at Newlands Park has been widely commented upon in recent months.

The firm claims its arguments have been supported by each of the retail impact assessments for Newlands Park, all of which have acknowledged an effect upon the town centre, although the exact figure is disputed.

On August 27, C&R submitted its own vision document for ‘Reshaping Luton Town Centre’ which includes various designs for beautifying the areas around The Mall and Power Court Stadium.

C&R has criticised Luton Borough Council for refusing to consider its vision document until Power Court and Luton Town’s enabling Newlands Park scheme have been determined. It claims the prospect for “reshaping and renewal” of the town centre would be harmed if Newlands is built.

Planning permission was first submitted by the Hatters in August 2016, but no date has yet been set for the planning committee to determine the plans.

Capital & Regional stated: “C&R has sought to engage with Luton Borough Council in the preparation of a new strategy for the town centre in follow up of the Local Plan Inspector’s recommendations for early review.

“The council leadership has resisted engagement with such work until the Newlands and Power Court applications are determined. This will be too late if planning permissions are granted.

“In the absence of the council initialising such work, C&R has had prepared a ‘vision’ document.”

The document includes numerous ideas for ‘place-making’ in the town centre, with added trees and greenery, improved landscaping around St Mary’s Church as well as a large food court within The Mall.

Nigel Green, Chairman of Save Our Town – which supports 2020 Developments’ plans – said: “We’ve seen Capital and Regional’s vision and it’s nothing to get excited or concerned about.

“It’s a glossy brochure full of proposed, uncosted ideas, pretty pictures, and frequent use of the word ‘community’, despite scant evidence of any engagement with people on the matter.

“It’s not worth the paper it’s written on.

“They have hastily cobbled this together only because Luton Town Football Club – which has been at the heart of our town for more than a century and will continue to be so long after C&R have left – has developed truly transformational plans for our home and they cannot stand not being the only show in town, despite the obvious benefits.

“We would invite C&R to consult face-to-face with the people of Luton on their ‘vision’, as extensively and openly as Luton Town Football Club did with theirs, two years ago. Maybe then C&R will understand just how disliked and discredited they are among Lutonians.

“They could, however, alter that perception by understanding that everyone, including them, stands to benefits from Newlands Park and Power Court. Get behind these proposals, C&R, and let’s make Luton an even greater place to live.”

Tony Murray, chairman of Luton Town Supporters’ Trust, added: “This is extremely disappointing from C&R and cannot be taken seriously.

“Why look to invest after all this time? They have had years to do it. They are only rough proposals and no planning applications have been lodged. It has taken these developments from the football club to prompt this.

“It is too little, too late.”

A spokesman for Luton Borough Council added: “The council rejects C&R’s criticism that it has no long-term plan for improving the town centre. Our local plan 2011-31 contains thorough, detailed assessment and strategies for the improvement and extended use of this vital, central location in the town.

“We have consistently told C&R that we are always happy to meet with them to discuss any issues and concerns they have and look forward to this offer being taken advantage of. We have discussed their initial concepts for improvements including the potential to invest in redesigning the entrances to the Mall. As we would be with any other developer, we remain open to further discussion.”