Chairman's casting vote needed over controversial plans for 60 new homes in Luton

Two petitions had been gathered in protest and presented previously to the council

Friday, 4th December 2020, 12:48 pm
Updated Friday, 4th December 2020, 12:50 pm

Two knife-edge votes were enough to seal approval for a controversial local authority housing scheme on Wandon Park in Luton.

But the borough council's plans to bulldoze Wandon Park have been referred to full council for a final decision.

Residents are bitterly opposed to Foxhall Homes Limited's proposals to build 60 homes on their local park in Wigmore, saying it will "destroy the green lung of their community".

Planning

An amended scheme of the council's housing company is for a mix of 51 houses and nine maisonettes on a five-acre site next to Wandon Close.

As part of the application, a replacement public open space would be created on the former Putteridge High School playing fields next to the park.

Planning permission has been granted already by North Hertfordshire District Council for this 11-acre area, owned by the borough council, to be used as recreational land.

Planning officer Abi Chapman explained to a development control committee meeting an open recommendation was reached, which featured options to refuse and to approve the application.

Two petitions, one with 480 signatures and the other with 309, had been gathered in protest and presented previously to the council.

Friends of Wandon Recreation Park member Cherry Newbery spoke on behalf of local residents, with 179 individual representations opposing the development.

She described the land in north Hertfordshire as "isolated, hidden behind trees and unsafe for residents to use".

Warning that "a vibrant community would be destroyed", she said the project is "detrimental to the health and wellbeing" of local people.

Liberal Democrat Wigmore councillor Diane Moles described the park as "the epicentre of our community where we hold social events", including a picnic in the park attended by more than 400 residents, while community carols in the park attracted around 250 people.

Liberal Democrat Stopsley councillor David Wynn said: "In November 2019, a borough council strategic house land availability assessment identified Wandon Park as open space, unavailable and unsuitable for housing."

Liberal Democrat Wigmore councillor Peter Chapman said 400 residents "stood in silence, socially distanced in the park, on Remembrance Sunday to hear the Last Post, many hoping it was not the last post for the park".

He added: "Not one of the Luton families on the town's housing list could afford these homes."

Agent for the applicant James Holmes said: "This scheme comes in at 28 per cent affordable, which is a significant planning benefit.

"Sport England has no objection to this. And it says there's a net gain in open space.

"There's a massive demand for three-bed housing locally and our scheme provides for three-bedroom, four-bed and five-bedroom properties.

"This is unique this situation. There are no other parks in Luton which could be considered in this way.

"There's a large site within the control of the applicant right next door. None of the other parks in Luton have that position.

"So this is an exception and that's why it complies with policy."

The casting vote of Labour Farley councillor Dave Taylor defeated refusal of the project, after a five-all tie.

The committee chairman's casting vote was used again to approve the development, as five were in favour and five against for a second time.

Conservative Bramingham councillor Gilbert Campbell asked for a deferral to a full council meeting, when another vote is expected to take place.