Luton Borough Council has finally granted consent for a new 23,000-seat ground for the Hatters – but the viability of the project rests on a further planning decision, the club’s boss has warned
Luton Town chief executive Gary Sweet likened Luton Borough Council’s long-awaited decision to grant consent for the League One side’s Power Court proposals to winning the first leg of a football semi-final.
The local authority will decide later this month whether to give the go-ahead for the club’s separate Newlands Park development on a plot close to Junction 10 of the M1. The proposals for Newlands Park, also by AndArchitects, include more than 500 homes, a hotel, conferencing facilities, music venue, retail space and a cinema.
The stadium project can only go ahead if the necessary funding is raised from the Newlands Park scheme. Describing the club’s planning situation, Sweet said: ‘We have the away leg to go.’
Plans were submitted for the Power Court stadium close to the town’s rail station back in the summer of 2016 (see AJ 06.06.16). Sweet hit out last February at the ’unfathomable’ wait for a planning decision and it took almost another year to get this week’s green light.
’It’s massive, it’s a milestone,’ Sweet said of the decision. But he also warned that the plot earmarked for the new stadium – which will replace the club’s historic Kenilworth Road home – was ‘an horrendous site’.
He said: ’There’s a lot of contamination; we want to move the river out; we’ve got to remove the substation and do a lot of levelling. So before we even start, the cost of that isn’t far off the cost of a football stadium.
‘So, unless there is something else to fund that process, then it will remain derelict forever. This is why principally we need Newlands to be passed. No developer is going to have that kind of money to unlock that particular site.’
Battersea-based AndArchitects worked with retail specialist Leslie Jones Architects on the stadium plans.
Manuel Nogueira, managing director of AndArchitects, said: ’It has taken six years to get to this point as it is a complex scheme which includes moving an electrical substation and de-culverting the River Lea. The planning applications where submitted over two years ago so its been a long wait.
’Once the Newlands Park application is approved then we can really celebrate and move forward with both schemes together.’
The Football Association has previously said it was ‘in full support’ of the proposals.
’The site can be accessed by excellent public transport routes and will significantly enhance the matchday offer currently available,’ said the game’s governing body.