Improving the river in Luton


We’re going to be working in Manor Road Park, Luton to improve the environment of the River Lea.


What is the river like now?

The River Lea flows along the eastern edge of Manor Road Park in a deep, restricted channel. The riverbed is concrete and the river runs between concrete walls or steps with metal railings.

The way the river flows means that silt covers the natural gravels which makes it harder for fish and other creatures to thrive. The high walls separate the river from the floodplain which can put other areas of the town at risk of flooding. Above all, the river is unwelcoming and virtually hidden from the local communities who could be enjoying a rich natural environment.

The river today

What are you planning to do?

We have been working with the Environment Agency and Luton Borough Council to agree a proposal to improve the habitat and flow of the river. This will help to increase numbers of fish, invertebrates and plants, as well as creating a recreational space for everyone to enjoy the river.

We plan to:

  • Remove the concrete river bed and, on the right bank, remove the concrete steps, tarmac path, concrete / brick wall and metal railings;

  • Make the river narrower and more winding

  • Improve the she of the riverbanks to give a stable slope that will not be at risk of erosion or collapse and will encourage a greater variety of plants on the bank and in the river. Click the link to see the planned new profile of the river.

  • Remove some branches of the large and over-hanging trees on the left or east bank to allow more light to reach the river and encourage more plant growth in the river and at the water's edge. 

Proposed layout for the river

What are the benefits going to be?

By careful planning and management, these works will:

  • Improve the biodiversity value of the river, that is, it will support a better variety of plants and creatures in the water and on the river banks.

  • Help the river to stay healthy when water flows are low and it will reduce the local risk of flooding when flows are stronger.

  • Make the river safer for everyone. 

  • Provide a pleasant and usable space for local people

This work should be taking place in the autumn of 2017.

What about the children's play area?

At the upstream end of the railings is a fenced children’s play area, which is linked to Manor Road by a tarmac path that runs along the top of the steps. As part of this work we will be moving the play area and some picnic benches further into the park.

We are currently considering two options for the children's play area and we'd like to know which of these options you like best. We know that the existing helter-skelter is really popular, so that will be staying where it is and the playground and seating will be moved around this. The existing springers will be relocated and we have two options, A or B, for the new swings and roundabout.


Option A

  • Swings are in one line with flat seat swings, a cradle swing and a mother and baby swing.

  • The roundabout is a flat platform with handrails and is probably more suitable for younger children

Click this link to see play area option A >>


Option B

  • Swings are in two separate sets with flat seat swings in one and the other with seats suitable for younger children including a boat swing.

  • The roundabout is a disc with a space in the middle and no handrails. It is described as a challenge for strength and balance and is suitable for children over 6 years old.

Click this link to see play area option b >>

Tell us what you think

We want to understand how local people use the park and to involve them in the proposals for the new play area.

Questionnaire - You can also complete our short questionnaire  

Contact us - For more information please email