Hatters CEO calls for patience over building of Power Court and Newlands Park

Hatters chief executive Gary Sweet
Hatters chief executive Gary Sweet

Luton Town chief executive Gary Sweet has urged for patience to be shown by supporters despite the club now having the official go-ahead to build a new stadium at Power Court and mixed use scheme at Newlands Park.

The High Court confirmed yesterday that Mall owners Capital & Regional had opted against appealing the decision to dismiss their Judicial Review claims into the Newlands Park plans.

Although that means the Hatters can now begin building a 17,500 ground on the Power Court site, plus the mixed use scheme, Sweet confirmed that it won't be a process that starts overnight, with a number of plans to be updated before then.

Speaking to BBC Three Counties Radio this morning, he said: "It ultimately means we have a full planning application with decision notice, so it's all within our gift to proceed, although that doesn't mean to say we get the diggers on site tomorrow and start building things.

“We clearly have to go through a detailed planning application, planning phase at this stage.

"We've got to find funders for the elements of the scheme we don't intend to keep such as the retail elements, the office elements at Newlands Park and some apartments at Power Court.

“We're going through a complete soft redesign as such, so when we first created these, some of these are nearly five years old now, the world's changed in five years.

“We're needing to update those designs, so there's still quite a bit of work to do.

"But what this does mean, is that it pretty much guarantees there will be a football stadium at Power Court for Luton Town Football Club in the not too distant future.

“I'm as eager as anyone to get in there and start moving, but there is a lot of work.

“I'm just asking for everyone to have a bit of patience with us.

"We've had loads of patience so far and we've gone through such a long process of planning, but in the scheme of things, moving football stadiums on average is about 10 years if you look at everyone else who's tried to move, and if you look at Brighton, it was a lot, lot longer than that.

“So we're doing okay, but this is a big, big scheme that we’re managing ourselves.

"Two huge developments, so it does need to be done properly, that's the most important thing, and that does mean a little bit of time.”

In his recent programme notes for the Fulham match on Boxing Day, Sweet had warned that: "With our economy in a state of some volatility, markets will need to improve before we will be in a position to attract investment which will then trigger those key infrastructure works at Power Court prior to stadium construction.”

However, when asked if those issues would lead to a delay in the structures being built, he added: "Not as such a delay, I think it will make things a bit more challenging for us to get the values that we originally envisaged going back three or four years ago.

“When we started this the word Brexit hadn't been created, so the world has changed, the retail world has changed as well, that doesn't mean to say we want to jettison retail.

“What we want to do is create what is effectively the first next generation retail park in the UK, which is a retail part designed for the future, not necessarily the past which most of them are.

“What we want to do is embrace those investment houses that actually want to start allowing cash funding until the Brexit issue settles down, so at the earliest sight of that happening then we will be on the doorstep of those businesses seeking some funding.

"That process goes on, we're working really hard to do that right now, we do have interested parties.”