Anger at sports centre refusal

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A charity hoping to bring sporting facilities to a run down part of High Town is considering appealing after its plan was rejected by Luton Borough Council.

Dallow Development Trust had hoped to turn a large industrial unit on Midland Road into a sports centre offering indoor cricket, boxing, squash, basketball, volleyball and outdoor football and netball facilities.

The plan had been earmarked for approval by officers for the council’s Development Control committee on Wednesday, but was rejected by councillors.

Martin Shaw for the Dallow charity said they were shocked at the refusal.

“We were prepared to help regenerate parts of High Town,” he said. “It was a great facility for young people.”

The charity is now planning to appeal, claiming councillors at the meeting rejected the scheme, and then stated they needed to find reasons to reject it.

Officers initially had opposed the plan, only reversing their position earlier this month following a concerted campaign with a petition, letters of support from local businesses and a report from Team Beds and Luton saying more indoor cricket facilities were needed in the borough.

But they imposed restrictions including only approving it for five years and not allowing outside events at the facility.

Mr Shaw said the trust accepted the conditions even though they would have hampered the project.

“I don’t understand why they were so negative about it,” he said. “We need to make it sustainable and five years can’t work.

“We had to fight tooth and nail to get this before the council, the report was very flawed.”

A previous High Town regeneration plan had the privately owned property earmarked for green space and play facility.

An updated plan now states the land could be used for housing.

A council spokesman said: “The application was reported to the committee with an officer recommendation for approval on a temporary basis and subject to a number of conditions including restrictions on the use of the premises.

“The officers’ report set out the relevant policy considerations and balanced those against the other material considerations applicable to the case.

“In this instance the view of the committee was that the development plan weighted more heavily in the planning balance than other considerations, and on that basis permission was refused.”

The principal issue of concern was that whilst the committee was supportive of the applicants’ intentions to provide sport-based community facilities in the town, the location is inappropriate.

“The applicant has the right of appeal against the Council’s decision.