246-apartment tower block plan approved for Luton

Concerns over the impact of its height on nearby church were raised
Nearby St Mary's ChurchNearby St Mary's Church
Nearby St Mary's Church

A 246-apartment tower block development for Luton town centre has been approved despite concerns over its height and impact on a nearby listed church.

The plans were deemed to have “a less than substantial impact” on the Grade I listed St Mary’s Church, after a site visit by councillors.

The tallest building of applicant JRL Property Limited’s full plans to develop vacant land at 1-11 Cumberland Street will be 21-storeys. Its project near the Park Viaduct includes flexible commercial floorspace, amenity areas, landscaping and parking.

There are 97 one-bedroom flats, 121 two-bed apartments and 28 three-bedroom properties on the three-quarters-of-an-acre site, according to a report to the borough council’s development management committee.

“It also has a 16-storey tower, a 12-storey tower and lower elements of seven- and nine-storeys joining these blocks together,” said the report.

“Previously the site was associated with the commercial use of a national engineering company, Deritend,” added the report. “It has been cleared of buildings and is currently hoarded off.”

There are 102 parking spaces spread over three floors, while storage is provided for 114 bicycles.

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Councillors deferred the application in June for a site visit and to resolve fire safety issues,” explained planning team leader Clive Inwards.

“It’s recognised the development would have an impact on the Grade I listed St Mary’s Church because of its height, although this results in less than substantial harm to this building.

“Each property would have its own balcony and there would be an extra 868sqm of communal amenity space, with a courtyard al level two and a roof terrace at level 12.

“It also features 190sqm of children’s play space divided between the communal areas and designed to meet the needs of younger residents aged up to 11.

“The previous application didn’t provide for any play space. No objections were received to the application, and it’s considered acceptable in highways and transport terms.

“The site is one of the vacant and derelict sites around the town centre which detract from the visual amenity of the area and don’t contribute to the town’s economy.

“A £153,000 developer contribution and affordable housing has been secured,” he added. “A viability review mechanism is to be included as part of the Section 106 agreement.

“It will make an important contribution to the regeneration of this part of the Castle Quarter area of the town centre removing an unsightly piece of empty land in this prominent location and providing job opportunities in construction and the operation of the high quality landmark building.”

Labour Farley councillor Mahmood Hussain, who asked for the earlier deferment, said: “We visited the site and looked at St Mary’s Church.

“It’s difficult to see the impression of a 21-storey structure, although it’s at a distance. Overall it may not have a major impact.

“I reluctantly support the scheme as it’s the first one in this part of the town to be of that height. My other concern is amenity space in this area is limited.”

Labour Farley councillor Dave Taylor said: “The Health and Safety Executive updated us to say it would be involved and ensure this complies with all current building regulations.”

Councillors unanimously approved the development.