SAVE OUR TOWN (SOT) Response to Labour Group at Luton Borough Council (LBC)
Ref: Lease of land at Cutenhoe Road for Sports Facility
Hazel Simmons MBE
Leader of the Council
Luton E: Hazel.Simmons@luton.gov.uk
LU1 2BQ W: www.luton.gov.uk
T: 01582 547271 Wednesday 20th January 2021
LBC: Thank you very much for your letter concerning the application by LTFC for a lease on the CCLV playground fields. I am responding to you on behalf of Luton Council’s Labour Group and will outline the principle reasons that members chose to reject the application on this occasion.
In 2017, both LTFC and an organisation representing local Gaelic football clubs approached the council with a view to securing part of the CCLV playing fields for their own use. This coincided with the development of both the new Linden Academy school on the former Vauxhall motor sports ground opposite to CCLV. Both of the developments had limited outdoors sports facilities and a decision was made at the time to retain 100% control of the CCLV playing fields, in case these were needed to support sporting activities at either school. Thus a precedent was set.
SOT: The above answer suggests that once a decision is made it can never be changed – which is patent nonsense! If circumstances change, which in this case is beyond dispute, then surely a new set of criteria should be used to assess a new application. The current condition of the playing fields at Cutenhoe Community Learning Village is essentially unusable. We are reliably informed that one of the teachers on-site has had to divert funds just to have the grass cut! LTFC are prepared to enter into a contractual arrangement to provide a modern indoor training facility and professional quality grass pitches for local schools to use with their compliments! A win/win deal you would think.
LBC: As you know, Linden Academy do use the CCLV playing fields on a regular basis and Chiltern Academy have an option to do so once they reach full pupil capacity in a year or so. It was recognised that the proposal did include the offer of a shared use but there was a concern that this might be difficult to manage in the circumstances.
SOT: Classic political nothing statement! The labour Group at LBC might have difficulty in managing the use of a state-of-the-art sports facility. We suggest that the professionals in Education and at LTFC might just about cope (in their sleep!). We say again: both Linden Academy and Chiltern Academy have wholeheartedly supported the LTFC proposal – in writing. To be clear: as well as providing the all-weather covered Dome pitch, LTFC are completely renewing the council-owned outdoor grass area and providing one full-sized competition pitch and four smaller training or junior pitches. Schools will have complete priority on these grass pitches Monday – Friday with the LTFC Academy using them on weekend mornings. A local childrens league have also been offered use of them at the weekend! Whenever the club doesn’t need to use the Dome, Schools will have access. As professional teams always prefer to train outside, on grass, this is going to be most of the time.
This equates to an investment around £1 million on the part of LTFC and ZERO pounds by LBC!
We ask LBC; SPECIFICALLY, what part of the shared use agreement causes you concern?
LBC: The recent and on-going substantial residential developments by Redrow and Strawberry Star in Kimpton Road will fuel primary pupil place demand in the south of the borough and it could be that the new school opportunity in question becomes a priority soon.
SOT: LBC Education Officers have made clear there is no projected shortage of primary education places in the south of the Borough. What SPECIFIC evidence do LBC have to the contrary? The new build quoted is primarily apartments, unlikely to have a huge child population. If LBC do have evidence of school demand in this area of Kimpton Road why did they not insist on a Section 106, or other condition, at the time when planning consent was required, to have school provision included in the development?
LBC: With this in mind it was felt that committing to a private lease on the land potentially required for this (even with the break clause) would be inappropriate.
SOT: SPECIFICALLY; what aspect of a twelve-month rolling lease does not give LBC the confidence they have the flexibility to build a school should it ever be needed, with twelve months notice to the tenant, LTFC?
LBC: Any such lease would also be subject to the approval of the Secretary of State for Education, obviously approval cannot be then taken for granted.
SOT: Nothing is being taken for granted. Of course the SoS for Education would have to approve. As noted above the local Schools are 100% behind the plans.
LBC: Although the rent income would be most welcome from the proposed lease, the current general economic climate is uncertain and is not conducive to making long term letting decisions. We believed it would not be right, as things stand, to commit to a lease that gave the club something in the way of a long term security of tenure. The potential demands on the whole of the CCLV site do not lend themselves to such an arrangement.
SOT: Err – there’s nothing uncertain about the economic climate – it’s absolutely dire and, we’d hazard a guess, not likely to get better for some time. Yes the rental income will certainly be welcome – especially to those front-line LBC staff whose jobs are on the line right now as a result of the ruling Labour Party budget cuts! As for ‘long-term’ – it’s an irrelevant, inaccurate and misleading term, even when it’s mentioned twice. We’d refer you back to the twelve-month rolling lease offer discussed above! Our definition of ‘long-term’ is the time it’s taken to get planning approval for Power Court and Newlands Park development – that’s to say around four years. It would take LBC longer than twelve months to decide what new colour to paint the bridge in Wardown Park, never mind deciding upon and facilitating a new school build. We repeat: there would be a twelve-month break clause in the proposed lease agreement. In any event – what REAL and better plans do you have for the land? Other than it becoming virtually unusable, nothing has happened in the four years since LBC last used the same lame excuse.
LBC: I know you will not be happy with this decision but I do hope it clarifies our position at this time.
SOT: Not happy is something of an understatement. The very last thing this response provides is clarity. Smoke and mirrors comes to mind!
SoT has had many dealings with Cllr. Simmons over the past few years. In all truth we have found her to be sincere, supportive, and honest – wanting the best for Luton.
We are reliably informed however that the controlling Labour Group Councillors are currently embroiled in something of an introspective power struggle among different factions. At any time this would be unacceptable and a betrayal of the electorate. Right now, in the middle of the biggest national catastrophe for 75 years it’s beyond shameful and a complete disgrace! The future of this Town is not a toy in someone’s sandpit. So whoever you are, get a grip of yourselves and start putting this Town first. To those elected officials at the top, show some leadership and get this absurd situation resolved. If you councillors know anything at all – you will know it’s not smart to mess with Lutonians, ask C&R!
Yours very sincerely,
Save Our Town
Hazel Simmons MBE
Leader of the Council