2020 Developments reveal 'significant changes' to Newlands Park designs

Initial Retail Assessment details revised proposals in full

Thursday, 22nd April 2021, 3:01 pm
How Newlands Park could look in the future - pic: Leslie Jones Architecture

2020 Developments, the property arm of Luton Town FC, have revealed some 'significant changes' to their plans for a mixed use scheme at Newlands Park.

The application, which the Hatters were giving planning permission for back in March 2019, is essential to help fund the new stadium with Luton are going to build at Power Court.

When the plans were originally approved over two years ago, it was for a scheme that included new offices, retail, leisure facilities, restaurants and bars as well as a 300-bed hotel.

However, a Initial Retail Assessment submitted by 2020 Developments this week has confirmed that although a department store and foodstore will remain, plus a 'statement building or and/or a public art feature', there will now be less space for retail and leisure.

The statement said: "The scheme for Newlands Park has undergone some significant changes from the existing, sitewide, consent.

"The site will continue to support a commercial and business hub for Luton, with a range of space that can support businesses of varied size and continue to encourage employment

and regeneration to the town.

"The revised proposals for Newlands Park will deliver flexible, market orientated employment floorspace.

"The revised proposals respond to the growing diversity of employment space needs and the prevalence of innovation, development, delivery and logistics business models in the UK market.

"The masterplan for the wider site includes a large proportion of flexible commercial business space, retail units with the allowance to expand retail use with demand, and the potential provision of high quality office floorspace.

"The flexible commercial buildings provide space that could be used for the Digital and Information sector (which includes the development and application of technologies such

as artificial intelligence) and/or advanced manufacturing, including high-performance technology and aerospace engineering linked to the Airport, and/or storage and distribution.

"The quantum of retail coming forward will is significantly less than was approved in the consented scheme.

"The retail elements will include a high quality department store, a foodstore, with the remainder being general retail/food and beverage floorspace.

"The objective being to create a modest, high quality scheme that does not detract from the status of the town centre.

"Ensuring that the proposals remain a gateway to Luton and will continue to provide high quality design is central to the revised proposals.

"The scheme will include a statement building and/or a public art feature, to aid the delivery of this vision.

"The provision of flexible commercial and business space presents exciting challenges in terms of functionality and architectural quality, giving the scheme a real opportunity to put Luton at the forefront of design for this type of ‘future ready’ development.

"The scheme also presents a new public realm scheme that responds to the site’s new use and layout."

With the coronavirus pandemic hitting industries hard, and a number of businesses going to the wall, on why the changes have had to be made, the assessment continued: "The proposals were to deliver a mixed-use scheme providing a new office and business campus with an adjacent hotel, and a retail and leisure scheme that will claw back trade currently leaking from Luton.

"Between a scheme design being frozen in 2015 ahead of a submission in 2016 and the final emergence of a deliverable planning consent in December 2019, there has been an unprecedented level of change and evolution in all property markets.

"The Covid-19 pandemic then created significant upheaval and instability in both real estate and financial markets that both accelerated and intensified these operational dynamics.

"The resultant landscape as we emerge from this has led to a refinement of the proposals for Newlands Park that responds to this context.

"With the unwavering goal of ensuring 2020 Developments and the club's vision is deliverable, the proposals have been formulated that respond to these changes and provide an alternative development strategy for Newlands Park that continues to deliver on the regenerative and gateway vision for the site.

"The Newlands Park scheme is looking to move towards greater incorporation of flexible commercial space that us required by multi-channel and vertically integrated business models.

"From a retail and leisure perspective the overall size of the scheme has been substantially reduced and designed in a way that can be developed in more easily prescribed phases."

Despite both Lidl and Aldi building new stores in the town centre and Gipsy Lane, 2020 remain confident the need is there for their own foodstore at Newlands Park, as the assessment said: "A new foodstore at Newlands Park would serve a different market to the town centre.

"It would serve passby trade on the M1, and the residents on the outskirts of Luton and the surrounding areas.

"Furthermore, the creation of a business hub at Newlands Park will mean that employees of the neighbouring businesses will be able to use the foodstore and other retail and food and beverage floorspace that will be delivered as part of the development of the site."

Meanwhile, on plans for a department store, the assessment also continued: "Despite the pandemic, there is still demand for operators for a high quality department store at Newlands Park.

"A department store of the type proposed at Newlands Park cannot be accommodated in the town centre, but will help to keep trade currently leaving Luton to centres elsewhere in Luton.

"The stark reality is that the potential department store occupiers will simply not trade from Luton town centre.

"They see Newlands Park as serving a different function and catchment to the town centre.

"Although the retail industry has been facing unprecedented turbulence, Luton remains an attractive destination to retailers.

"We are confident that a focussed retail offer providing a new foodstore and high quality department store will serve a different market to Luton town centre and claw back trade

currently leaking to destinations elsewhere."

The statement also hopes that with less retail at Newlands Park, it won't affect the town centre, adding: "There are now substantial changes with both schemes, resulting in far less retail floorspace at Newlands Park and the removal of the podium at Power Court.

"It is clear that there will be less of a chance that Luton town centre will be adversely impacted to an unacceptable degree.

"Luton has historically been a very successful centre.

"With the development of more housing in the town centre and a new stadium, Luton town centre’s role will be further expanded.

"It is because Luton town centre offers many everyday services and has a retail mix more centred on everyday needs that we are confident that it will recover well form the current pandemic.

"The delivery of Power Court providing regeneration and new homes and with a new stadium as a centrepiece will further safeguard the town centre’s future.

"It will attract and steer investment to support new jobs, improve Luton’s public spaces, take care of its heritage, and provide new and affordable activities that ensure the town centre is a welcoming place for everyone and encouraging people from outside the town to come and visit.

"We are confident that the limited retailing proposed at Newlands Park will not have a significant adverse impact on the Town Centre, and indeed the cumulative impact of the Newlands

Park and other schemes, such as Power Court, on the town centre will be a positive impact."