Drill Hall demolition to start soon

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Demolition of the derelict Drill Hall in High Town and erection of new social housing on the site will begin imminently, Councillor Tom Shaw revealed today (July 26).

Details of the project will be discussed in secret by the council’s executive on Monday, but Councillor Shaw said members of the public who live nearby and local councillors will help to design the housing.

It’s one of a few new building projects about to begin in Luton, to help the town meet the demand for affordable housing.

Councillor Shaw said: “We are in desperate need of social housing in the town and finding land to build on is a problem. Although we have these projects starting in the next two or three weeks including Roebuck Close, Bradley Road and Ickley Close, for me it’s never enough.”

A Performance Report which will be presented to the executive on Monday says the target for building affordable new homes in Luton was not met in 2012/13.

The target was 200, but only 152 affordable new homes were built, which the report says is due to limited land and funding as well as general difficult economic climate. Therefore the target for 2013/14 will be reduced to 125.

However, Councillor Shaw said these figures do not include homes that have been built on private land, such as houses on the site of the old Barn Owl Pub in Farley Hill.

He said: “If you count all the developments on private land, we are way above the target, probably 80 or 90 above. Now the Drill Hall is definitely going to be knocked down and that will all be social housing built on that site. It’s the way the figures are done that mean they haven’t counted everything, but even though we are above target, I would rather be 200, 400, even 500 above target.”

The Drill Hall site has been a long-running issue, and in 2011 the site was expected to be sold to the Shia Muslim Masjid-e-Ali group for £1.5 million.

Council leader Hazel Simmons chaired a three-month inquiry at the end of 2011 into using the site for housing.