£136m The Stage regeneration project in Luton approved by council - creating 642 jobs

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Luton town centre’s £136m regeneration project, The Stage, has been approved by the borough council.

Approval for the regeneration project in Luton creating nearly 650 jobs could act as a catalyst for other town centre projects, a meeting heard.

But The Stage has lost some of its sparkle with a lack of affordable housing, and financial restraints on the borough council, which ignored some of its design guidelines in its planning application.

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The mixed-use development on the former Bute Street shoppers car park in Church Street includes residential properties, a multi-purpose performance and community area, a food court and commercial space, according to a report to the local authority’s development management committee.

The proposed design of The Stage Station ApproachThe proposed design of The Stage Station Approach
The proposed design of The Stage Station Approach

Principal planning officer Eleanor Downs said: “The four-acre site was the former Bute Street railway station and sidings, replaced by a multi-storey car park and bus station since demolished.

“These plans are for two nine-to-ten-storey blocks providing 292 homes and a two-to-five-storey mixed-use building to which the community would have access.

“The proposals also include a new public square, a pedestrian route from Bute Street to Church Street, private residential and communal gardens and parking for the mixed-use building.

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“This site forms part of the Station Gateway allocation under the Local Plan, which supports residential-led mixed-use development as part of the town centre regeneration.”

She continued: “It should also be led by railway station improvements, but these haven’t emerged from Network Rail. The loss of 252 parking spaces supports sustainable transport, while ensuring sufficient parking remains.

“The site layout doesn’t integrate with the current urban grain of the surrounds, which impacts the character and alters the perception of key views of this area.

“It’s been concluded the plans represent less than substantial harm to the conservation area and nearby Grade II listed buildings. No objections have been received.”

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A community use agreement will secure access to the performance and food court spaces for local benefit, she added.

“While not all aspects of the design are considered an optimum site solution, as there are some conflicts with guidelines in our design guide, the impact on the surrounds is balanced against providing family homes, public space provision, community access and landscaping, while bringing a vacant site back into use.”

Planning consultant for the project Lisa Skinner explained: “The Luton town centre master plan sets out the vision to regenerate this area and has been key to the project.

“This development builds on that vision and creates a gateway to the town centre and the railway station. It provides links to other areas, such as Power Court.

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“As the first such scheme in the area, this will act as a catalyst for other projects. The residential mix will increase the quality and number of family sized properties in the town centre, with 48 per cent of the properties larger homes.”

She added: “It’s estimated 642 jobs would be created overall. The plaza creates a meeting place. The residential element is car free and a separate cycle hub with storage for 196 bikes is proposed for community use.

“The applicant intended to provide 20 per cent affordable housing on site, but this wasn’t viable because of increased building costs and changes in the economy. To deliver a scheme of this nature, the finance from the government’s levelling up fund is critical.”

Councillors approved the development with seven votes in favour and one against.