Luton Town’s two supporters’ groups have today launched a fierce attack on Capital and Regional in response to the Mall owner’s “breathtaking” U-turn on a Hatters stadium at Power Court.
Last week, Capital and Regional (C&R) announced it had “fundamentally changed its position” and was now “completely supportive” of the club’s plans for Power Court, while announcing its own £7m investment into The Mall.
But C&R remains opposed to the club’s proposal for Newlands Park – a mixed-use leisure and retail development off Junction 10 of the M1 – which Hatters regard as crucial to facilitating the new stadium.
And now, in a joint statement issued to the Luton News, Luton Town Supporters’ Trust and Loyal Luton has said the apparent change of stance from C&R should be treated with suspicion.
They said: “Supporters and the people of Luton should be very clear that Capital&Regional has only one agenda, which is to protect and enhance its dominant position in Luton town centre for the benefit of its shareholders.
“Years of under-investment have dragged this town down. The Mall has effectively destroyed the heartbeat of the town, closing it down in the evening, and leaving a legacy of ugly buildings and car parks surrounded by empty shops and undeveloped land.
“C&R’s U-turn in supporting a stadium at Power Court, after publicly trying to block the scheme, is breathtaking and should be treated with suspicion.
“It merely confirms what 11,000 people, local MPs, the football club and Luton fans knew already, which is that Power Court is the best site for a new football stadium.
“C&R is continuing to oppose the Newlands Park development, which will fund the new stadium at Power Court. By trying to block the Newlands Park development C&R is effectively blocking plans for a new stadium.
“C&R’s track record in Luton is abysmal. The company has lost the trust of the local community with its empty words and hostile stance against our stadium.
“We look forward to a swift and positive decision in favour of the Power Court and Newlands Park schemes.”
Last week, we reported how Luton Town’s chief executive Gary Sweet claimed there was nothing new in what Capital and Regional had announced.
While welcoming the £7m investment, he said: “Disappointingly, there are large inaccuracies in Capital & Regional’s claim that their position has changed with regards to our planning applications.
“Investment in their own property aside, there is nothing new in what they are saying. Senior representatives of Capital & Regional have previously publicly stated that the company was not against Power Court per se but maintained their objection to our application for a £300m+ investment at Newlands Park whilst knowing throughout that both are intrinsically linked.
“After a number of changes in opinion Capital & Regional have indeed previously supported Power Court but now continue to misunderstand and misrepresent our proposals for Newlands Park despite all details being available in black and white for over 20 months.”
Earlier, a Capital & Regional spokesman had said: “Where we’ve changed our policy is that we are now completely supportive of the principle of the site on Power Court.
“We absolutely see the benefits but we do have some concerns over the application, insofar as the proposals could interact with the town centre better.
“We fully support the redevelopment of Junction 10, but where we remain opposed is that we cannot countenance 750,000sq ft of retail and leisure – it’s essentially about the same as the Mall.
“But we have to work with 2020 ... we have fundamentally changed our position.”
Hatters submitted their planning applications back in August 2016, and since then Luton Council has come under fire for the length of time it has taken to get them before councillors to vote on.
This month the council is due to announce the date for the meeting which will debate the schemes, with a decision given before the end of the summer.