New block of flats in Marsh Farm would cause 'irreparable damage' to church and vicarage, say opponents

The Church of the Holy Cross seen from Buckle Close
The Church of the Holy Cross seen from Buckle Close

Overlooking from a new block of flats would cause “irreparable damage” to a Luton church and vicarage, it has been claimed.

The LBC housing department proposals involve a three-and-a-half storey block of flats by the junction of Buckle Close and Northwell Drive.

Last week at Luton Borough Council's development control committee, opponents of the council-backed housing scheme succeeded in persuading councillors to visit the site before making a final decision on the plans.

The project will provide 100 per cent affordable housing units on the site of a former children’s home, which was demolished in 2008.

Planning officer Gemma Davies told the council’s development control committee: “It’s part of a phased regeneration of the central area.

“The application site is a brownfield piece of land, enclosed by a high fence to deter trespassers and prevent unlawful activity.

“There were ten letters of objection, six from residents close to the site, and a further letter with 70 objectors listed, only three of whom were nearby.”

Objectors concerns included:

> Traffic congestion and lack of parking provision;

> Effect on access to The Church of the Holy Cross;

> Impact on views of the church;

> Loss of privacy for the vicarage;

> Increased noise and disturbance.

Father Richard Brown, from the church, said: “I am not objecting to the principle of social housing.

“I and others are opposing this development because of its negative impact on the use of the vicarage and the church, and the lack of community cohesion.

“The overall design is out of keeping with the general character of the surrounding area. It would cause irreparable damage to the role and function of the church in this part of Luton.

“A vicarage is not only a home, but a place where sensitive pastoral work is carried out, even in the garden.”

The church’s safeguarding co-ordinator Joan Bailey added: “This new development means the church will be landlocked and our services hugely compromised.

“We have become a key element of the community. The proposals undermine everything we have worked hard to create.”

Labour Northwell councillor Anne Donelon stated the proposed block of flats was too high and suggested a delay.

Her Labour Northwell colleague councillor Yasmin Waheed agreed and added: “Balconies looking down on the garden … it is harmful.”

Labour Challney councillor Tom Shaw, who’s the council’s portfolio holder for housing, added: “This scheme is desperately needed on Marsh Farm. It’s a good development right on the edge of viability.

“We’ve got to build schemes where people can get jobs, go to work and have rents they can afford to pay.”

Labour Farley councillor Dave Taylor, who chairs the committee. said: “We understand the need for a site visit and agree on that.”

The plans were deferred