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Ash Sakula scheme too 'avant-garde' for Luton

Ash Sakula has had to resubmit unusual plans for a scheme adjacent to the only Grade I-listed building in Luton after the council mauled its designs for a 250m textile wall surrounding the scheme.

Fresh plans were returned to the council last week after the practice's first effort was rejected by the local planning committee, against the advice of council officers.

Committee members labelled the original proposals - which would have demolished a youth centre next to the listed St Mary's Church and replaced it with two single-storey buildings for the National Carnival Arts Centre - 'detrimental to the visual amenities of the street scene'.

Councillors concluded that the proposed development 'by virtue of its prominent siting, combined with the proposed exterior treatment to the site perimeter, will be detrimental to the setting of St Mary's Church.' They continued: 'The application details did not provide sufficient information to demonstrate that the proposed 'textile wall' will be sufficiently robust in terms of design and future management, to ensure its survival as a feature of the development.' 'It was a bit avant-garde. The decision-makers wanted something more appropriate to the town, ' said Luton Borough Council development control manager Ian Blackley.

The plan - which is funded by a £3 million National Lottery grant - is set to be the first dedicated centre promoting carnival arts through training, workshops, seminars and showcases in the country.

As the first facility of its kind in England, the Arts Council has highlighted the scheme as a crucial platform for increasing the profile of carnival arts and an important base from which to expand their artistic content.

The news comes after it was revealed in February that Ash Sakula was dumped from a major regeneration project in Huddersfield, despite winning planning permission for the scheme.

The practice was dropped at the end of last year after the local council suddenly put the £3 million project to an OJEU notice. The move prompted frustration from the practice, which questioned whether the 2,000m2 media centre would ever be completed.

Ash Sakula refused to comment on the Luton decision, but is understood to be confident of a planning victory second time around.

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