The Town Centre Masterplan was launched last summer and during the extensive consultation period, many people supported the idea to open up the River Lea and bring pocket parks to the town centre. This first stage and a key part of the rejuvenation of the area will reveal the river on the corner of Bute Street and Silver Street on the former car park site, which was originally home to Victorian pubs and industry, such as hat making.
When complete, later this year, a small park will stand with a stepped terrace down to the river, lots of new planting and trees which will improve the look of one of the town’s busiest pedestrian streets and one of the main walkways into town from the station. The project will also have a lot of benefits for ecology and the environment.
Further plans for opening up the river are in the pipeline and will see more of the river flowing through the area creating new waterside space and a green corridor which will also help improve air quality. There will also be a series of other green corridors extending into the town centre and tree planting, making an even greener town centre.
Facing the location of where the new pocket park is Our River, a piece of public artwork which has recently been installed on the Mall wall. People connected to Luton submitted their images for this huge photomosaic last year to honour those lost to the COVID-19 pandemic, but also to celebrate the hard work of people who kept Luton safe and images also reflecting the happy and momentous occasions which defined the pandemic. The artwork will be officially marked at a separate event.
Councillor Sian Goding, portfolio holder for regeneration and inclusive growth at Luton Council, said: “When we announced the launch of our Masterplan for the town centre, we acknowledged that the process wouldn’t be a short one. However, we are making strides and the work to open up the River Lea and the wonderful photomosaic opposite where that sits shows we are delivering on our promise to make the area greener, and more attractive.
“We continue to make changes in other areas, too, with new developments and improvements planned and in progress. Combined with a return of a busy events programme, there will be a wider range of things for people to do so our businesses and residents will ultimately be able to enjoy a more thriving town centre”.
Other developments in progress include the Stage, a multi-purpose development where Bute Street car park sits, which will include 372 homes and new community, retail and business spaces. The project, which received £20m of levelling up funding, will support the growth of businesses in various sectors and so help create local employment opportunities, skills, and training available and will be completed by 2025.
Also, good news for the town centre is the £238,000 received from the Partnerships for People and Place fund. The council will focus on the immediate challenges to ensure a strong economic recovery and protect the town’s most disadvantaged residents from the worst impacts of the pandemic, so no one is left behind.
The project is receiving up to £958,201 of funding from
the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European
Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Ministry
of Housing, Communities and Local Government (and in London the intermediate
body Greater London Authority) is the
Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund. Established by the
European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas
stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will
support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community
regenerations. For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding.