Luton town centre will soon be like a "Soviet-era post war city" says pressure group Save Our Town

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Serious concerns raised about The Stage development – but council says it’s a crucial element of town centre master plan

Luton town centre and railway station gateway will soon “resemble a Soviet-era post-war city”, a local pressure group has warned.

Save Our Town has welcomed the £20m levelling up grant to be put towards the borough council’s The Stage project, a mixed-use redevelopment of Bute Street shoppers’ car park.

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But the organisation has “serious concerns that we’ll see an auditorium size much smaller (per capita) than any town or city within 30 miles”, adding: “The proposed flexible design is great. Sadly, scale and ambition not so.

The proposed design of The Stage Station ApproachThe proposed design of The Stage Station Approach
The proposed design of The Stage Station Approach

“While Save Our Town is honoured to be part of the consultation process, this shouldn’t mean the correct local bodies aren’t fully consulted as to their realistic hopes, dreams and desires for The Stage.

“It must be ensured that funding is spent on what Lutonians want and deserve. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. This project has to have a cultural legacy.

“With more flats around The Stage, the town centre and railway station gateway will soon resemble a Soviet-era post-war city.

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“Surely Power Court and Kimpton Road more than provide for future town centre residents? What will they do for entertainment?

“A multi-purpose entertainment and events venue with maximum flexibility surely has priority over more flats. We believe the balance is wrong and contradicts the aims of the master plan.

“Luton remains behind Dunstable, Aylesbury, Stevenage, St Albans and Milton Keynes for a theatre or events venue. With this funding, now is surely the time to readdress that balance.”

LBC is to hold a public consultation on its proposals for The Stage, following workshops with key stakeholders and interested parties.

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“These focused on building design, transport, accessibility, sustainability ideas and layout of the high quality public spaces,” said a council spokeswoman.

“It also covered how the designs could help provide a safer, cleaner, more attractive area and attract more people and businesses to Luton.

“This would boost the image of Luton and improve the town for the benefit of Lutonians, as well as visitors. The public is being asked for their thoughts on the layout, design and the main elements of the project.

“We’ll listen to many perspectives before approving any plans. We don’t agree with everything Save our Town says, but we welcome challenge from those passionate about Luton.”

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Portfolio holder for regeneration and Labour Farley councillor Sian Goding said: “The Stage is a crucial element of the town centre master plan, and of our aims to level up Luton’s income inequality and eradicate poverty.

“We had some really useful feedback from our workshops, which helped refine the proposals and inform the scheme’s design. Public views will help shape the development further, before a planning application is submitted in March.”

The Stage plans include 405 new homes, a community facility with performance area, and office and retail space. The work is due to be completed by the end of 2025.

The consultation from January 30 to February 9 includes drop-in events at Youthscape on January 31 and in The Mall on February 3, with a virtual event on February 1.