Decision on Luton Town's Newlands Park scheme delayed due to concerns from Central Beds Council

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CBC's initial opposition resolved 'late in the day' but councillors deferred last night's vote due to lack of time to read updated report

Late additions to the agenda led to proposals of Luton Town Football Club's property arm for a mixed-use development at Newlands Park being deferred for three weeks.

A 38-page late sheet was distributed to borough councillors yesterday (Weds) afternoon, ahead of last night's development management committee meeting.

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Revised sets of plans for the 37-acre project by the M1 junction 10 have been recommended for approval by the local authority's planning officers.

Newlands Park  - pic Leslie Jones ArchitectureNewlands Park  - pic Leslie Jones Architecture
Newlands Park - pic Leslie Jones Architecture

Separate outline schemes for the north and south of the site have been submitted by applicant 2020 Developments (Luton).

But councillors were unhappy with the lack of time available to read through the updates, the majority of which related to these two applications.

Liberal Democrat Barnfield councillor David Franks described it as "completely unacceptable", after the issue was initially raised by Labour town mayor and Farley councillor Mahmood Hussain.

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His Labour ward colleague councillor Dave Taylor, who chairs the committee, said he was unaware of the extra material.

Newlands Park latest site planNewlands Park latest site plan
Newlands Park latest site plan

Labour Northwell councillor Anne Donelon said: "If there's any concern whatsoever among us that we can't properly scrutinise this, it should be deferred so there's a fair hearing of this matter."

Planning team leader Clive Inwards explained an email exchange with Central Bedfordshire Council about its initial opposition to the project had been resolved "late in the day", saying: "We thought we'd put it in front of members in full, as it was only received the day before.

"The council has confirmed this afternoon it has withdrawn its objection, so we were going to mention that during the presentation.

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"Most of the 38 pages is the reasons for opposing this from CBC, which is set out in full. But the objection is now effectively removed, so we feel comfortable we can proceed."

The committee previously granted outline planning permission for the 37-acre site in September 2019.

The revised schemes, covering the north and south plots of land, feature less space for retail and leisure, and include environmental impact assessments.

CBC was "concerned that the (latest) proposal isn't in accordance with the adopted (Luton) Local Plan", according to a report to the committee.

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Its "specific concerns relate to the fact that extra housing hasn't been considered", said the report.

And it referred to "a lack of justification for the proposed changes from the extant permission, as no market assessment has been undertaken to support this assertion".

The report added that CBC felt "the proposed change in uses will have a significant impact on the highway network, which hasn't been appropriately addressed".

LBC's head of planning Sunny Sahadevan told the committee: "The update sheet is just an aid for members.

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"The substance of that will be covered in the officer presentation," he said. "So we'll go over what's in there.

"Councillors will have all the information they need to make a decision on the applications before you.

"The large part of the update is no longer necessary or relevant for members to trawl through and digest before they make a decision."

A vote to defer the two applications was unanimous, with councillor Taylor adding: "Unfortunately those two items have been deferred and they'll come back at the next meeting on January 26."

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