“Projected factory for 12,000 workers,” said the front page headline in the Beds & Herts Saturday Telegraph, of March 15th, 1919. “New industry for Luton. Biggest development scheme yet negotiated.”
It was anticipated that the Osram-Robertson Lamp Company Ltd was about to establish an enormous works on the outskirts of Luton.
Things have so far advanced now, said the newspaper report, that we are able to state that the scheme provides for a factory which in the early stages will provide for the employment of about 4,000 people, and which later on is expected to be developed to accommodate 12,000 workers.
The proposed site, it went on, is on the right-hand side of Leagrave Road and Marsh Road, and to establish railway communication the sanction of the Bedfordshire County Council has been obtained for the laying of a siding which will cross the main road as a level crossing.
To everyone it will be obvious that this is the biggest development scheme which has so far been dealt with by the New Industries Committee, and from one point of view it is a pity that it did not have the opportunity to make the matter public. There were certain points still to be settled which prevented them from making this public announcement, so it fell to the County Council to give publicity to a matter which has been the subject of general surmise for some time past.
With the establishment of an industry of this magnitude between Luton and the two villages of Leagrave and Limbury the day cannot be far distant when that whole area forms a homogeneous part of the town of Luton. This, and the necessary development of housing accommodation which must follow, must also have a material bearing on the town extension question.
The matter came before yesterday's meeting of the County Council, when the Highways and Bridges Committee submitted the following report:
“Your committee beg to report that at a special meeting held for the purpose they considered an application from the Osram-Robertson Lamp Co Ltd for permission to construct a level crossing on the Leagrave Marsh-Luton main road, in the parish of Limbury.
“Your committee also received a report of the County Surveyor on the application. It appears that this company proposes to acquire land adjoining the road for the purpose of erected large works employing many thousands of hands, and they require a level crossing in order to connect their works with the Midland Railway.
“The Clerk of the Council submitted a draft of the proposed agreement between the Council and the Company, under which the protection and convenience of the travelling public will be fully assured, and your committee therefore recommend that the agreement be entered into and the desired permission given.”
The Council was told that a letter had been received from the Company agreeing in general to the terms, with the exception of a provision that there should be a five years limit to the agreement, after which the Company might be required to remove the siding, if the County Council so desired.
After debate, it was agreed that it be left to the Clerk to amend the terms of the agreement by eliminating the five years limit.
In October 1920, after rumours had been circulating in the town for two months, a director of the company finally wrote to Luton's Town Clerk: “My company have decided after all not to remove their works to Luton. I assure you that we have come this decision with very great regret and after very careful consideration and debate.
“One of the main reasons which has influenced us in coming to this decision is the fact that it was finally decided that it would be absolutely necessary for certain reasons that our research laboratories should be nearer London, and it necessarily follows that certain new industries should be settled in its immediate vicinity and not Luton as we originally contemplated.”
It was understood the company proposed to offer the land they had acquired in the district for sale almost immediately.