Developer appeals against council's rejection of 179 new flats in High Town

An appeal has been lodged over a housing scheme in Luton, where councillors opted to overturn a recommendation to approve the plans.

Supporting the development would have “thrown away” the last chance for family housing in an area of High Town, it was claimed.

Fountain House and the MOT centre on Burr Street would be demolished if the scheme went ahead

Fountain House and the MOT centre on Burr Street would be demolished if the scheme went ahead

The project at 4-11 Burr Street would involve demolishing buildings on brownfield land to provide 179 apartments.

The 1.4-acre site is currently occupied by industrial and commercial buildings, which include the Bedfordian Business School, Fountain House Chapel and a vehicle MOT and servicing depot.

Applicant Burr Street Limited wants to build 88 one-bed, 66 two-bed and 24 three-bed flats, as well as a four-bed home, with car parking and cycle storage.

The application returned to the borough council’s development committee, after being deferred in August.

The company was invited to amend its application to cater for councillors’ concerns, explained a report to the committee.

Instead the firm submitted an appeal on September 20th because “the local authority had failed to give notice of its decision within the appropriate period”.

Liberal Democrat Barnfield councillor David Franks had said at the previous meeting: “It’s an over predominance of one-bedroom flats from my perspective.

“It worries me considerably. High Town is probably one of the very last places in the town where we’ve got a realistic chance to get family houses with small gardens.

“It’s just a wasted opportunity for me. We’re throwing it all away for five-storey buildings and 179 flats. I am not comfortable with that.”

Planning officers were seeking clarification from the committee for the reasons given for overturning their recommendation.

“Members need to be aware of the risk of costs being awarded against the council at appeal if any reasons for refusal cannot be justified,” said the report.

The committee was also being asked to agree an extra reason for refusal relating to a lack of affordable housing provision.

Planning officer James Wells said: “Officers have serious concerns about the final reason put forward by members because the direction of planning policy is to achieve a move towards more sustainable transport.

“Arguments about inadequate car parking are not generally welcomed by the planning inspectorate.

“For consistency with the decision that was made previously at 10 Midland Road, if we are refusing that on the basis of failure to provide any on-site affordable housing, then a similar reason could be applied to this location.

“The third reason for refusal seeks to capture the problem on appeal, which could occur, in securing the financial contributions we consider are required, and which effectively the applicants were offering in August.”

The council’s planning solicitor Steven Sparshott said: “If the appellant comes forward with a Section 106 agreement, that reason for refusal does fall away, but this includes it as a mechanism to allow us to require those obligations.”

Although having recommended approval, Mr Wells had said at the August meeting: “As explained in the report, there is no provision for affordable housing and this is a concern for officers.”

Nearly £785,000 is offered in contributions by the developer, according to the previous report.

Councillors agreed the reasons for refusal based on their previous concerns about the housing mix, with the added issue of a lack of affordable homes.