Regeneration plans for Stockwood Park in Luton shelved - despite being venue for BBC Radio 1's Big Weekend

Stalled heritage lottery fund bid leads to cancellation of plans as no capital investment was available
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A long-awaited plan to renovate a prestigious park in Luton has collapsed, despite it being selected to stage BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend this year.

An overhaul of Stockwood Park has been shelved by an unsuccessful grant application, according to a report to the borough council’s scrutiny finance review group.

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Potential new features included family cycling and walking routes with signed trails, an adventure playground, picnic areas, a 3G multi-use games area (MUGA) and floodlit all weather pitch, an outdoor gym and a BMX or pump track.

Stockwood Park. Picture: Joanna CrossStockwood Park. Picture: Joanna Cross
Stockwood Park. Picture: Joanna Cross

Hopes of achieving the park’s regeneration were heavily reliant on several different financial sources. Obtaining National Lottery heritage fund support was deemed essential to making further progress.

That bid has floundered as the committee report refers to the “management and removal of the £2m Stockwood Park regeneration scheme”, adding: “This project will no longer be delivered (grant application unsuccessful).”

Other finance options being considered included Section 106 planning contributions, such as from the nearby Newlands Road development, and community funding through the council’s airport company, which a park master plan acknowledged diminished post-Covid.

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Set in almost 250 acres of predominantly green space within the Farley Hill estate to the south of the town, the future uses and activities promoted within the site were examined by external consultants.

Ecological benefits achievable would be diversification of grassland areas to create longer grass and meadows, planting of woodlands and trees, improving the pond and restricted public access to selected areas to provide habitat for ground nesting birds, their plan explained.

Works to restore the historic landscape design, an interpretation of the outline of the original house, renovation of historic entrance features and the World War Two pillbox, and signage explaining the history of Stockwood Park would be other possible aspects of the project.”

Two public consultation exercises were held as part of the consultants’ work, and a final master plan was due to be considered by the borough council’s overview and scrutiny board in November 2022.

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The document provided details of the scheme with an introduction to the site, the public engagement outcomes and resulting suggestions to boost the status of Stockwood Park, said a report to the board at that time.

“The purpose of this project was to review its current use, including the popularity and financial viability of the golf course and the athletics centre, and to design a master plan for its sustainable future. This would help to meet its potential as Luton’s country park.

“While the proposals are currently being costed and various funding options are suggested, there’s no capital secured to carry out the works,” warned the report.

“Therefore, any financial assistance that could be provided for this development would be a great show of confidence in the future of the park.”

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But the flagship BBC Radio 1 music festival is to be held in Stockwood Park from Friday, May 24 to Sunday, May 26.

Thousands of people will be attending the event, which attracts top artists every year, with millions more expected to be watching on television.