The Lansdowne Club on New Bedford Road has been vacant since closing in 2018 and was later put up for sale.
Lansdowne Developments Limited submitted a scheme for 84 apartments on the site at number 70, which was refused by the borough council’s development management committee.
An appeal was lodged against the decision, which was made in March 2021, but that was dismissed earlier this month (April 12).
The application consisted of 19 one-bedroom, 60 two-bed and five three-bedroom flats contained within 11 and four-storey buildings, on three quarters of an acre, with parking and access from Villa Road.
A planning inspector threw out the appeal, saying in his decision notice: “The scale, siting and massing of the development would result in harm to the character and appearance of the area, with the 11-storey block being an incongruous feature in this location.
“There would be further harm to the living conditions of residents arising from the size and prominence of the taller block, and also harm from the loss of the non-designated heritage asset, number 70.
“Given the diminished value of number 70 this carries limited extra weight. Nevertheless, the harm arising from the project carries great weight given the scale of the proposals.
“In this instance that harm would outweigh the benefits of the project.”
The inspector focused on “the effect of the proposals on the character and appearance of the area, its impact on non-designated heritage assets, and its influence on the living conditions of neighbouring occupiers”.
He explained: “The remaining nineteenth century villas form a group of which the appeal property is the centremost, and they’re located at the highest point of Villa Road.
“Due to its height and massing, the 11-storey block would be highly visible from neighbouring properties, in particular the houses facing the appeal site on Villa Road.
“It would still be substantially taller than any other building in the immediate area.”
He accepted the plans would provide a good standard of accommodation for future occupiers, including outdoor amenity space.
“The appeal site is in a sustainable location and benefits from access to public transport, in particular being a short distance from Luton railway station,” he added.
“And this could act as a catalyst for the regeneration of the wider area, although there are no definite proposals for such a scheme, so this carries little weight in the overall balance.”
There were 61 written objections and more than 100 comments on social media about the plans, while a petition was set up in objection to the demolition of the former Landsowne Club.
Owner of agents Chart Plan Limited Barry Kitcherside told the committee last March his client bought the site in 2019, describing it as difficult to develop.
“The sale of the site was brought about through the decline of the previous business, not helped by the need for repair, with little or no planned maintenance for a good few years,” he added.
“The building isn’t listed or in a conservation area. This company is recognised in Luton and this is going to be one of its landmark buildings.”