'No quick fix' as masterplan to transform Luton town centre could take 30 years

A radical plan to transform Luton town centre is "no quick fix", councillors have been warned.

Thursday, 15th July 2021, 1:31 pm
Updated Thursday, 15th July 2021, 1:32 pm
The masterplan to transform Luton town centre is a 20 to 30-year project

The local authority's masterplan for the area is a 20 to 30-year project, a full council meeting was told.

"This isn't a quick fix," said Labour Farley councillor Sian Timoney. "It's not going to happen overnight.

"But it's really exciting. It's an opportunity to be bold.

"We've got the chance here to make changes to our town centre which will last a lifetime and more.

"The old Arndale Centre was of its time. Councillors back then thought it was what people wanted and it was.

"But times have changed," she added. "We have a massive opportunity here to be as bold as we wish to be.

"We can see the benefits in the cultural quarter already. My message to you is be positive about this and help us make these changes.

"We hear what everyone's saying - whether it's about litter or decent quality shops - but we'll only make that change if we achieve it together."

Project design and delivery manager Toby Maloy presented an update to the council on the masterplan.

Labour Farley councillor Dave Taylor said: "It's an impressive plan and hopefully we can achieve it. The town centre is vibrant and busy during the day.

"Have you considered the evening and night time economy because the town centre at night isn't a place where I want to be?" he asked.

Mr Maloy replied: "The way people socialise and spend their time in the evening has changed.

"Things such as (streaming service) Netflix have affected how many people go to the cinema. Fewer people are drinking and more are adopting healthier lifestyles.

"It's about providing that blend of space which works for all the communities of Luton

"We need to ensure it has a wide range of offers to bring people in and try to focus on key areas, so it feels a lot more vibrant there and also make sure it doesn't disturb the increasing population of the town centre too."

Conservative Icknield councillor Jeff Petts asked whether there were plans to move the market back in the town centre, adding that "places such as St Albans and Leighton Buzzard" attract shoppers through their markets.

Mr Maloy said: "We see the market as a key part of the town centre, but its exact location is to be confirmed.

"The way it's been designed in The Mall makes it inaccessible. You can easily come to the centre of Luton and not know it exists.

"We want to make the market a more prominent part of the town centre, so we're considering options such as a car park, possibly the old Debenhams store or some other outdoor spaces."