Joint venture with Roxylight seeks permission for mixed-use scheme on 55 acre site

Laing O’Rourke and Roxylight are today to apply for planning consent for a £400m mixed-use scheme on a 55 acre (22 ha) former car plant in Luton, Bedfordshire.

Working under the joint venture title Southside & City Developments, Laing O’Rourke and Roxylight subsidiary URUK have been working on a proposal for the last five years.

The site faces Kimpton Road and is a former Vauxhall car factory, which was once the town’s biggest employer. The future of the site is considered to be politically sensitive, and there were detailed discussions with Luton Borough Council before today’s planning application.

The site is also on a steep incline, which drops more than 140 ft from its highest to lowest points and poses challenges to development.

The scheme’s 800 to 860 housing units will sit on the site’s high north edge. The steepest end will comprise mainly family homes, and under this tier there will be flats.

The south side, next to the remaining Vauxhall van factory, will feature commercial development.

There will be 450,000 sq ft (41,810 sq m) of B1 offices, a 5,000-space airport car park, 80,000 sq ft (7,432 sq m) of retail warehouses and space for small businesses, and a 100,000 sq ft (9,290 sq m) distribution warehouse.

Between the residential and commercial areas, the developers are proposing an eight storey, 200-room hotel next to a casino or conference centre to attract traffic from Luton airport.

Uncertainty over the government’s Gambling Bill has meant Southside & City has entered two options into the consent for a casino or a conference centre. The developers are in talks with hotel chains that specialise in both.

The application will also address improvements to the site’s infrastructure. Tony Palgrave, project director, said: ‘The potential connectivity to the local network is excellent. Luton Parkway station, the airport and the M1 are all within a mile of the site.’

Southside & City will also enter a second application to rebuild an existing Vauxhall vehicle site to the rear of the development.

The composition of the scheme was strongly guided by the wishes of the council and the Luton development plan. Aukett Fitzroy Robinson is the architect.

David Lock, managing director of David Lock Associates, the masterplanner, said Luton particularly lacked family homes.

He added: ‘Family homes with gardens will account for at least 30% of the scheme’s housing.’