Sweet hopeful of a decision on Power Court and Newlands Park in December

Hatters chief executive Gary Sweet
Hatters chief executive Gary Sweet

Luton chief executive Gary Sweet is hopeful that the club will have a decision from Luton Borough Council about their joint applications for a new ground at Power Court, plus a mixed use scheme at Newlands Park, by the end of the year.

The Hatters submitted plans well over two years ago now for a 17,500 stadium at Power Court, plus the development at Newlands Park, only to see the process delayed and delayed.

This now means that the planning officers at Luton Borough Council will be in receipt of everything for them to write their committee reports, hopeful in readiness for a committee meeting in December for both applications.

Gary Sweet

Although the club were asked to update their environment reports recently, Sweet doesn’t think that will prove to be a significant stumbling block, as writing in his programme notes, he said: “On the planning front for Newlands Park and Power Court, frustratingly, we were recently requested to update some of our technical reports, specifically for ecology, and environment, as guideline policies have changed since we originally submitted our planning applications.

“Alas, these elements now need another short consultation period too before the council can determination our applications.

“However, having already completed and resubmitted these addition assessment, on with our last-word rebuttals on retail matters, this now means that the planning officers at Luton Borough Council will be in receipt of everything for them to write their committee reports, hopefully in readiness for a committee meeting in December for both applications.”

Sweet also discussed the fact that the club, as revealed in the Luton News, have bought the remaining freehold interests of Power Court from the council, meaning that 2020 Developments - the company which owns Luton - now has full control of the site.

He continued: “You will have read last week that we have acquired the freehold interests for all remaining parts of Power Court from the council.

“This means that the football club, through 2020, is now in materially control of all land included within our applications, and all land excluded from the adopted local plan.

“It means that one way or another, with or without the stadium, our development destiny is broadly in our own hands.

“Naturally we won’t settle until it does include a stadium.

“This is a crucial development.

“All land is bought at risk. All has been bought freehood and unconditionally. And all has been bought with the the single intention that it progresses the club and town.”

Finally, after news broke last week that leading retail landlord Intu, which owns major shopping centres in Milton Keynes and Watford, has withdrawn its opposition to the Newlands Park project, Sweet felt it was a significant step in the right direction.

He added: “The best news this week however is the story that Intu - owners of shopping centres in Watford and Milton Keynes - have withdrawn their previously submitted objections to Newlands Park, having done so after they studied our impact data showing that our custom will be drawn from a multitude of areas and won’t impact any one town detrimentally especially when balanced by the significant benefits Power Court will bring to our town centre and the wider economic benefits both schemes will bring to the region.

“Removing objections is generally an unprecedented action, but this is particularly pleasing as it’s from the UK’s largest retail operator who has two retail centres within the catchment of NP and whose authority dwarfs many smaller retail centre operators in the area.

“Intu clearly recognise that healthy competition is a good thing for the retail market, a good thing for the region and a good thing for them.

“They clearly have the foresight to recognise the positive economic impact our developments will have for everyone in our region.”