A regeneration project which includes opening up another section of the River Lea in Luton town centre has been approved.
The proposals at 37 to 39 Cheapside will fit in with the local authority's ambitions to turn the neighbouring Silver Street car park into a park.
Applicant Alexia Estate Management Limited submitted full plans for three- and five-storey buildings containing 28 flats, six commercial units, a gymnasium, and basement level.
The scheme also includes the de-culverting of the River Lea to create a new public thoroughfare and space, after the demolition of a car park and other structures on the site.
Located at the junction of Silver Street and Cheapside, it occupies a prominent location at the gateway to the Plaiters Lea conservation area, according to a report to the borough council's development management committee on February 23.
Principal planning officer Graham Dore said: "The application seeks to provide a mixed use scheme, including five retail units, a restaurant and a gym.
"The de-culveting of the River Lea and the new public thoroughfare alongside it would tie in with the approved park on the Silver Street car park site.
"The five units could be retail, such as travel agents, coffee shops or anything of that nature.
"Mixed use developments are encouraged in the town centre. The housing provision would also be appropriate in this context.
"This has allowed for a formal agreement over affordable properties, developer contributions and the opening up of the River Lea in agreement with the Environment Agency.
"The design is considered acceptable, being sympathetic to the character of the surrounding historic environment, and it would result in a significant regenerative benefit for this part of the town centre.
"Increased footfall would positively contribute to the daytime and night-time economies," he added. "No representations have been received for the scheme.
"It would provide an acceptable living environment within such a dense location. Overall, it's concluded the development is consistent with policy requirements of the Local Plan.
"It comprises a well designed sustainable form which will bring forward the much needed regeneration for the locality and reveal another section of the River Lea."
Labour Farley councillor Mahmood Hussain asked for clarity about the arrangements over the affordable housing.
Mr Dore replied: "That would be subject to agreement with our housing colleagues. Four two-bedroom and two one-beds might be likely."
Liberal Democrat Barnfield councillor David Franks wondered if the housing type was a "50/50" split, as the report to the committee suggested two different versions.
Mr Dore explained that it would be 12 one-bed, or 43 per cent, and 16 two-bedroom apartments at 57 per cent.
Councillors unanimously granted planning permission for the project.