The council has secured significant funding which will be used to open up part of the River Lea and add new green space, a popular proposal for improving the look and feel on the town centre as part of the recently agreed masterplan.
During the masterplan’s extensive public consultation, over 90% agreed with the approach to expose the river within the town centre along with introducing new green areas and parks. The opening up of the river, in the former Silver Street car park, will create an attractive area for people to enjoy. It will also help reduce potential flooding risk and work towards developing a natural chalk stream, which is ideal to improve river wildlife.
The project is part the town’s 2040 vision which includes providing more open spaces for people living in the town centre, making it more child friendly and improving wellbeing. It also supports the council’s carbon neutral objectives as opening the river and providing more planting helps green the environment and improve air quality. It can help towards economic recovery from Covid-19 as the scheme contributes to a thriving town centre with the right mix of office, retail, residential and leisure space.
Cllr Sian Timoney, portfolio holder for Regeneration and Inclusive Growth, said, “Exposing the river was a really popular proposal when we consulted on the Town Centre Masterplan. The sections people can currently see are not very nice to look at but give a hint at what could be possible in a part of town which is lacking right now. With the area looking prettier more people are likely to enjoy coming into the town centre and that can help towards investment in the area.
“The population of the town centre is set to grow significantly and that will mean increased demand placed on our limited amount of green space and wildlife habitats and also upon local heritage. We are really excited about revealing more of the river and know people will enjoy what could be a lovely little spot in the town”.
The project costs around £1.9m, with European Regional Development Fund funding £908k capital and £49k revenue and the council is matching within its capital programme and revenue budgets. The council would eventually need to spend money on repairing the tunnel under the road through which the river currently flows, which has known structural issues, but funding would not cover such repairs.
Works are due to start later in 2021 for completion spring/summer 2022.
Watch the Masterplan video to find out about the plans for the River Lea in the town centre.
Find out more about the Town Centre Masterplan on Luton Council's website.