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High Town Road in General

20 and 22 High Town Road June 2011
20 and 22 High Town Road June 2011

The buildings at the southern end of High Town Road were mostly erected in the mid 19th century. By the mid 1970s it was felt that the area needed regeneration. This part of HighTown was designated a shopping area in a plan for High Town bought out by Luton Borough Council in October 1977 [PL/LP5/16]. The plan read as follows:


HighTown grew rapidly in the nineteenth century as a flourishing suburb of Luton. The typical pattern of building was a fairly even spread of terraced housing inter-mixed with small workshops and the occasional larger factory, chapels and schools, and a noted shopping centre which served a very wide area of the town.

In the twentieth century problems began to emerge in HighTown which it is still the concern of today’s Plan to solve:

  • The shopping centre suffered decline because of the narrowness and congestion of High Town Road, the lack of parking, the development of rival centres, and loss of custom through housing clearance.
  • Housing conditions were such that clearance of unfit houses began early, in the 1930’s, and has continued at intervals since, with major Compulsory Purchase Orders made in 1955, 1968 and 1972.
  • In the earliest clearance areas, east of High Town Road, the land was redeveloped for industry – first typified by the erection of the Co-op slaughterhouse in 1939. Because of the scattered pattern of cleared sites, a deterioration in the environment of the remaining houses occurred. Often there was a tendency to overdevelop these small sites, with parking spilling over onto the street or cleared sites.
  • The road pattern with its grid layout and frequent crossroads was not well adapted to the motor age. These deficiencies became a problem, particularly in the industrial area because of the need to cater for large plots of land for industrial development. On-street parking also became widespread.
  • The social and community buildings of HighTown, particularly the schools, became obsolete.
  • The area has inevitably suffered from the neglect of those buildings and lands previously affected by proposals that have been abandoned over time as a result of changing circumstances. These include the dualling or widening of High Town Road, Hitchin Road, Oxen Road and Midland Road; and industrial zone in Frederick Street/Clarendon Road; a large internal distributor road; and a large part of the Inner Ring Road.

Much progress has already been made towards solving some of these problems. A new St. Matthew’s Junior School has been built, as have large areas of attractive new housing west of High Town Road. Success has been achieved in the control of industry in the Frederick Street/Clarendon Road area, and road improvements and traffic management schemes have also been introduced, such as the construction of Concorde Street and the bus lane in High Town Road.

The Plan’s Aims

These are:

  • To strengthen the housing role of the area west of High Town Road and north of Dudley Street.
  • To preserve and revitalise the High Town Road shops.
  • To provide land for the replacement of the St. Matthew’s primary schools, and for the development of social and welfare facilities.
  • To complete the development of the industrial area east of High Town Road.
  • To provide an improved road network and car parking for housing, factory and shop traffic.
  • To free the bus services from congestion.
  • To upgrade the environment of the area.

The plan designated the lower part of High Town Road, up to the junction with Havelock Road and York Street, as the shopping area. The plan’s specifics were as follows:

The Council aim to encourage a revitalised shopping centre in HighTown which will continue to function both as a district centre, serving local residents and workers. The existing shops will be retained from York Street southwards to Midland Road, although certain demolitions will take place for the road improvements needed for the future of the centre as a whole.

Shoppers’ access to the centre will be improved by building more car parks, and by linking the housing area’s main spine footpath with High Town Road. Goods access will be enhanced by closing the end of High Town Road, thus removing through traffic and allowing the road to be made over for delivery vehicles and other access purposes. It is expected that the provision of a congestion-free bus service will also be to the advantage of the bus-borne shopper.

The attractiveness of the shopping centre to the pedestrian will be enhanced by:

  • Removing the through traffics when High Town Road is closed at its southern end.
  • Providing landscaped areas particularly with the aim of screening the industrial area from the shops.
  • The removal of the paint spraying and other industrial buildings on the corner of Burr Street, when the shoppers’ car park is built.
  • The removal of the Co-op abattoir. An agreement under the Planning Act has been reached with the Luton Industrial Co-operative Society to cease the use of this building and it is the intention that the building itself be redeveloped as a modern factory.

It is hoped that these measures will lead to traders taking the initiative in improving their own properties.

The Council will continue to pursue a policy of keeping shops in its ownership fully let, to avoid dead shopping frontages, and will, as far as possible, bring about the improvement of its own properties.

Where practical, encouragement will be given to the continued use of upper flats over shops as flats. Planning applications for the change of use of flats to some other purpose will be viewed in the light of the Council’s existing policy in respect of the loss of residential accommodation. Planning applications for the change of use of shops to warehousing use, within the meaning of Class X of the Town and Country Planning Use Classes Order 1972, are unlikely to be viewed favourably.

Consideration will be given to the designation of a Conservation Area in High Town Road.