Blog: Graeme RobertsGM Luton plant site redevelopment slow

Graeme Roberts | 2 June 2015

Early days: some legendary Vauxhalls were designed and made in long-gone buildings in Luton. Opel/Vauxhall still makes vans on a corner of the site

Early days: some legendary Vauxhalls were designed and made in long-gone buildings in Luton. Opel/Vauxhall still makes vans on a corner of the site

What to do with an old vehicle plant site once last units have been shipped and the buildings bowled?

In the UK's case (Linwood, Bathgate, Ryton, Cowley, Canley [nb the old Triumph model names for the new streets], Speke, Longbridge, Banner Lane, Humber works, etc, etc) the land is usually usefully 'repurposed' with new buildings housing people, hotels, supermarkets and industrial edifices (giant Network Rail and Post Office warehouses at the old PSA Ryton plant site I drove past yesterday) but our equivalent of the once bustling Buick facility in Flint, Michigan, still lies empty and forlorn.

I am referring to Vauxhall's (by no means entirely abandoned) Luton site, once home to a car plant that dated back to the early 20th century when the fledgling automaker moved north from London. The factory assembled its last Vectra (three generations back from the current Insignia) early in 2002 and was subsequently closed with the loss of 1,900 jobs.

As always with such events, there were attempts to put out a positive spin with news of redevelopment plans but, to date, the buildings have been levelled and that's it. Nosey Parker here was visiting Vauxhall yesterday and got curious. It appears that earlier plans came to nought after the less than stellar global economy of the mid-2000s but, last year, a new plan was placed before the local council and approved with a few variations. Napier Park's website is not working at the time of writing which is a bit ominous. I hope that, like Longbridge [work is way more advanced than in this satellite shot; memo to self, buy a drone], once home to the various companies that morphed into MG Rover, redevelopment does eventually go ahead as that brings jobs and economic stimulus, not least from the construction work alone.

Vauxhall still builds vehicles on the remainder of the once vast Luton site - the light commercial vehicle plant formerly known as IBC is nowadays proudly signed with 'The Home of the Vivaro' (Vauxhall/ Opel van line) clearly visible as you drive past en route to the airport. And there are several new administration buildings nearby.


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