Hatters chief executive Gary Sweet admitted it was a great relief to finally know the dates in which the club’s proposals to build a new stadium at Power Court and mixed use scheme at Newlands Park, will go before Luton Borough Council’s planning department.
The council announced on Thursday, well over two years since the plans were submitted, that Power Court would be heard on Wednesday, January 16, 2019, with the Newlands Park application a fortnight later on Wednesday, January 30.
Writing in his programme notes on Saturday, ahead of Town’s 2-0 win over Fleetwood, Sweet said: “It is with great relief and delight that we heard on Wednesday that our two planning applications will finally be decided upon by the local authority in January.
“It’s magnificent that we’ve got to this exciting stage in the planning process in what will be a genuine milestone in the history of Luton Town Football Club and, I believe, a genuine milestone for Luton given the value of both developments and what they will bring to our town.
“Whilst we naturally remain frustrated and disappointed by the length of time the process has taken since we submitted back in July 2016, and therefore the loss in our progress, we must also acknowledge the complexities in magnitude and the cautious diligence Luton Council’s planning team have needed to manage the process.
“Consequently, we thank the planning team for their efforts and commitment to get their reports written in readiness to be distributed ahead of these committee meetings.
“You may wonder why the two applications are being dealt with separately. We understand that this is largely because Power Court will be ready first and the local authority has a duty not to delay a decision once it’s ready to make it, which we’re not going to stand in the way of.”
Sweet also couldn’t see why there would be any realistic objections to either proposal, a 17,500 stadium at Power Court, plus the retail, hotel, conference centre and offices that Newlands Park will provide, along with an estimated 4,000 jobs too.
He added: “It is also our strong view that each application stands firm on its own independent merits from a planning expectation – we simply cannot fathom why anyone, individual or business, cannot objectively see the hugely positive benefits these developments will have on our own town.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to promote our club and our town up the leagues sustainably and who honestly wouldn’t want that?
“As has been explained previously, we will need the commercial benefit of both schemes to be able to fund the stadium in a way that enables the club to be sustainable going forward.
“Getting a positive decision on Power Court will be like winning at half-time, so a positive decision on Newlands Park will be just as crucial to us.”
If both plans get the green light, Sweet warned that wouldn’t mean building could start immediately, adding: “In terms of scheduling, the good news is that the planning officer’s report will be published around a week before each meeting, which means you will all be able to read what his recommendation will be, then to be discussed and decided upon at the committee meeting once any objectors have their say.
“The venues of the committee meetings are still to be decided upon (at the time of writing this) but, again, this is a public meeting anyone can attend should you wish to do so.
“If, then, we make a big assumption in that we get a positive determination for both, it doesn’t mean we start laying bricks in February, unfortunately.
“There are still several hurdles to jump including dealing with any challenges that may be seen as worthy followed by a detailed application phase and a huge amount of preparation, planning and partnering.
“Therefore, your patience – which I understand may be in short supply – will still be very much needed.
“However, let’s not take the gloss off this week’s news which is a colossal step forward for the cub and could lead to the first time in over 115 years that Luton Town has received planning permission for a new stadium.
“So, with these meetings committed to, with the run of fixtures in both the Football League and the FA Cup and a testing transfer window for us that may define our season, January has just turned from a big month to possibly the biggest month in the club’s history, on and off the pitch.”