Central government funding holds key to Luton Airport access road through New Century Park

Funding decisions by central government could hold the key to a controversial road project in Luton which has planning permission, but is still not underway.
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A generous deal for local authorities in next month’s Budget could provide the spark for Luton Borough Council to begin work on the route into a business park at the town’s airport.

The 1.2-mile Century Park access road would start at a new junction proposed for the A1081.

But a business case for the project has to be prepared first, and presented to the borough council.

Map of the proposed access roadMap of the proposed access road
Map of the proposed access road

A previous attempt to establish this case was rejected in private by the council’s scrutiny finance review group in August.

“The business case for this £124m scheme was drawn up to justify the council borrowing to finance the new road,” Liberal Democrat group leader and Barnfield councillor David Franks said last month.

“The review group looked at the funding package in detail last summer and rejected it as completely inadequate.”

The decision forced the executive committee to delay its consideration of the planned investment until it could do more work to make the business case stand up to examination.

The London Luton Airport Limited (LLAL) proposals would involve building on Wigmore Park, and were bitterly opposed by local residents and the town’s Liberal Democrats.

LLAL owns Luton Airport, and its majority shareholder is Luton Borough Council.

Liberal Democrat Stopsley councillor David Wynn told a budget full council meeting: “It’s clear there’s not yet an agreed business case to justify this road.

“In fact, so far, it’s been rejected by councillors of all parties, not just the Liberal Democrats.

“Could you please give us an update on what plans there are to actually get a business case for this into the budget?” he asked.

Labour High Town councillor Andy Malcolm replied: “I think it’s stepping a little far beyond the truth and reality to suggest this has been rejected by people of all parties.

“But with the suggestion that the Prime Minister and Chancellor are asking ministers to modify savings cuts, it’s only sensible to wait until we’ve had the Budget and that direction of travel from central government.

“It’s included in the (council) budget because we’re planning on making the decision within a year.

“I am not going to apologise or suggest it’s not the right thing to do,” said councillor Malcolm, who’s the executive member for finance.

“It’s absolutely the right thing to do to open up a business park that creates thousands of jobs for our local economy.

“And it’s something we can use to improve people’s prospects in terms of well paid rewarding work.

“We will make a decision in the upcoming year. I think it’s right and prudent to wait until we’ve got that direction of travel from central government to finalise our plans.”

The development consists of a new dual carriageway linking New Airport Way (the A1081) with New Century Park on 235 acres of land.

Opponents of the scheme say the new route is designed to serve a second terminal building at the airport, which has still to reach the planning stage.

Environmentalists are upset about the loss of Wigmore Valley Park, which is designated a county wildlife site.