Luton residents will be 'totally demoralised' if any parts of Power Court stadium plans watered down, councillor warns

Luton residents will be "totally demoralised" if parts of the Hatters' Power Court stadium vision are "torpedoed" because of viability and funding concerns, a councillor has warned.

By Euan Duncan
Friday, 25th June 2021, 1:16 pm
Updated Friday, 25th June 2021, 1:18 pm
The vision for Power Court stadium is regarded as the most eagerly anticipated development in Luton town centre in a generation

The multi-million pound town centre project was described as "one of the most critical and visible projects" to local people, during a meeting of the borough council's overview and scrutiny board.

A draft town centre master plan was presented to the board, setting out the local authority's future vision and ambition for the area.

The document aims to address the changing nature of retail, the environment, transport and the overall purpose of our town centre, explained a report to the board.

"It acts as a framework to guide its regeneration over the next 20 to 30 years, while testing development proposals to ensure they are commercially viable."

LBC's corporate director, inclusive economy Nicola Monk said: "We've been asked to participate in a High Street task force initiative and we'll get a diagnostic on Luton town centre.

"We can build an action plan with the task force. This is great vision and we need practical action.

"There's the Welcome Back Fund where we applied for just under £300,000 to increase footfall.

"That's about better seating, areas where people can eat and drink outside, a whole range of activity, small things which will change the look, feel and tone."

Liberal Democrat Stopsley councillor David Wynn referred to the "undoubted" importance of the Power Court scheme of 2020 Developments (Luton).

"Every evidence I see is that because of viability questions and funding, a lot of what was put forward as the vision for Power Court, in line with the ambition of this master plan, is about to be torpedoed," he warned.

"If the public sees one of the early major steps towards it, such as theatre performance areas, walkways, opening up the River Lea, all going to be sunk that's going to totally demoralise residents.

"Unless we begin now to build into planning some changes in attitude to what's being done in the town centre, this plan will be dead before it's started."

Service director, sustainable development Sue Frost acknowledged: "We've quite a mountain to climb.

"We've got two conservation areas within the town centre boundary which will protect buildings of merit.

"Introducing more residential high quality development into the town centre could help lift it.

"It's exactly what 2020 Developments (Luton) want to do with their accommodation and with their proposals.

"We've had quite a lot of interest around tall buildings and you'll know again the example of Power Court has come back with an increase in height on some of those buildings.

"There are a whole number of sites which could help and invigorate town centre investment," she explained.

"There's a real drive now to improve what's coming forward. We're asking Ernst and Young to provide a design guide for the town centre.

"There are limitations in what we can do around viability, but because of this work we think we can push back harder on developers."

Liberal Democrat Barnfield councillor David Franks said: "This is well thought through and I'm pleased to see it.

"I sincerely hope the council follows and sticks to the town centre master plan rather more faithfully than the adopted Local Plan.

"This is regularly shoved away out of sight when certain members of the council find it inconvenient to follow its guidance."