Iconic Luton hotel will be demolished and replaced with flats

Plans to turn Luton town centre hotel into flats and retail units approved by councillors

By Euan Duncan, Local Democracy Reporter
Monday, 4th July 2022, 9:46 am
Updated Monday, 4th July 2022, 5:01 pm

A Luton town centre hotel is to be turned into a block of flats and retail units, despite councillors’ concerns about fire safety, a lack of parking and affordable housing contributions.

Applicant Franco Anacreonte submitted full plans to demolish the Icon Hotel in Stuart Street, and replace it with an 18-storey and four-storey building.

The project includes 102 flats, with 21 three-bedroom, 57 two-bed and 24 one-bedroom apartments, as well as six commercial units.

The Icon Hotel

Head of planning Sunil Sahadevan told the borough council’s development management committee: “There seems to be a re-emerging need for hotel accommodation in the town.

“This is mainly associated with the airport use,” he explained. “What’s more important is the need for properties, particularly family-sized homes.

“This site lends itself to a landmark building, with a contemporary appearance. It will be a striking development, which should say much about our town.

“The health and safety executive are happy with the application, while Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service isn’t objecting.

“There’ll be a legal scheme which restricts future occupiers from obtaining parking permits. This is the right solution for this site regarding sustainability, zero carbon targets and improving air quality.”

Ten representations were received, according to a report to the committee. Objections including the inappropriate design of the proposed building and the heritage impact on the adjacent Grade II listed The Spires, said the report.

Labour Farley councillor Mahmood Hussain wondered whether the Section 106 contributions were “anything or zero”, saying: “We want to see contributions in terms of education, as well as the local environment and parks.”

Mr Sahadevan reassured him that a viability assessment review mechanism would be carried out during the project, enabling some funding to be recovered if sufficient money is available.

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Labour Saints councillor Summara Khurshid described the design as “really niche”, but warned if schemes are allowed without parking provision “we’ll be answerable to the community and in a shambles”.

Labour Dallow councillor Raja Ahmed agreed, suggesting a couple of storeys could be provided for a car park.

Labour Farley councillor Dave Taylor, who chairs the committee, replied: “The instruction from the government is to reduce car usage.

“When you have a sustainable location, such as the town centre, it’s an ideal time to reduce the dependency on the vehicle.

“If someone’s car was essential to them they would not buy, lease or rent a flat at this location.”

Mr Sahadevan added: “We’re moving away from the philosophy of providing a parking space for everybody that wants one.”

Planning agent Scott Lonie acknowledged “fire safety is important to everyone right now”, referring to the design around the fire shaft.

“In a high rise block, there’s always one fire lift,” he said. “The lobbying arrangements of that were wrong originally and are now absolutely to regulations.

“Ourselves and our clients are keen to provide something which is over and above. The escape exits are right, as is the design of the partitions between apartments.”

Councillors approved the development subject to conditions with five votes in favour and three abstentions.