Campaigners' victory as plans rejected for 11-storey tower block on site of Landowne Club

Plans to demolish a former Victorian private members' club and replace it with two blocks of flats have been refused.

Thursday, 25th March 2021, 11:01 am
Updated Thursday, 25th March 2021, 11:02 am
Plans for two tower blocks on the site of the Lansdowne Club have been rejected

Plans to demolish a former Victorian private members' club and replace it with two blocks of flats have been refused.

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 plans for 84 apartments on the site, situated within 11 and four-storey buildings.

Its scheme consists of 19 one-bedroom, 60 two-bed and five three-bedroom flats, on three quarters of an acre, with parking and access from Villa Road.

"There's no longer a recognised need for a members' club at this site," the borough council's planning team leader Clive Inwards told a development control committee meeting.

"A petition was set up in objection to the demolition of the former Landsowne Club," he said.

"Ten per cent affordable housing is to be provided on site, although not the policy compliant position of 20 per cent.

"The project will have a significant impact on the character of the area, but would create a high quality living environment.

"It's currently providing no contribution to the local economy.

"It's in a key gateway location and such a development could act as a catalyst for further regeneration opportunities along this corridor into High Town."

There were 61 written objections and more than 100 comments on social media about the plans.

Paul Hammond, from Luton Heritage, called for "the pause button to be hit" on the demolition of the building.

"It's considered that the change of the buildings to properties could be achieved in conservation terms with a sympathetic conversion retaining the historic fabric," he explained.

Owner of agents Chart Plan Limited Barry Kitcherside said 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 said.

"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."

Liberal Democrat Crawley councillor Lee Bridgen warned: "Drip by drip we're losing these non-designated heritage buildings.

"There were nine villas. Now there are three remaining on adjacent plots.

"Are we going to be setting a precedent where we're putting the adjacent villas at risk?" he asked. "That's a concern to me.

"If they want it to be a landmark building, doesn't it make it more important for the plot to keep the current heritage?"

Liberal Democrat Barnfield councillor David Franks said: "I don't have a problem with the design of this 11-storey building.

"It would make a fine contribution to the town on another site. Any 11-storey building here is going to be entirely inappropriate.

"It will have a hugely overbearing effect on neighbouring buildings. It's one of three in a row.

"Collectively they do make a contribution to the preservation of Luton's architectural heritage."

Labour Northwell councillor Anne Donelon agreed about trying to preserve the Victorian villas.

"It would be such a pity to lose these beautiful buildings," she said.

Labour Farley councillor Dave Taylor, who chairs the committee, recognised "the villa was once an asset, but is in disrepair and deteriorating.

"Who's going to spend the money to refurbish it?" he wondered.

"If the applicant walks away that site will remain derelict for a long time."

Councillors voted six-three against the recommended approval and rejected the plans by five votes to three.