Sweet: We have done enough to prove Newlands Park is justified

Luton Town have done more than enough to justify that plans for a mixed use scheme on Junction 10 is the only site to help finance a new ground at Power Court, according to Hatters chief executive Gary Sweet.

Wednesday, 16th November 2016, 10:45 am
Updated Wednesday, 16th November 2016, 5:03 pm
Hatters chief executive Gary Sweet with architect Manuel Nogueira

The Strategic Planning team’s advice for Luton Borough Council, published on the council’s website this week, revealed they had yet to be convinced this was the case, with the document stating: “The applicant has not, thus far, provided sufficient information to justify the departure from policy in respect of out-of-town uses to support the development of the stadium on an alternative site.”

That was something Sweet didn’t agree with though, especially after both he and his team worked night and day putting together the applications for Newlands Park and Power Court.

Speaking exclusively to the News/Gazette, he said: “This is certainly something we have taken up with the Council as we believe a great deal of information and supporting evidence has already been submitted.

“Although to be fair, we understand it’s not an easy task - an 11,000-page application is a weighty book of information to absorb.

“It is so important we all take a step back during a process like this and look at the bigger picture.

“Newlands Park comes forward alongside Power Court and vice versa and together the two schemes can deliver a boost to the local economy in-excess-of £250m per year in addition to giving the town a once in a generation opportunity to create something we can all be proud of - that betterment of our future is immeasurable.

“One of the most interesting elements of the recent public consultation process has been the number of non-football fans who simply want to see these two schemes come forward as a means of restoring pride back into the town as well as virtually every football supporter who recognises and wants that too.”

The planners also stated that they felt Town’s plans aren’t in line with what was originally set out in the Local Plan.

It continued: “With the exception of B1 office uses, the scale of other proposed uses and omission of a football stadium represent a departure from the local plans in terms of the role and function of Stockwood Park and the ambitions for development on this site. ”

However, Sweet vehemently denied that moving from Kenilworth Road to an out of town stadium at Junction 10 was a viable option the club, saying: “No, absolutely not.

“Luton Town Football Club has no intention whatsoever of relocation its stadium to any ‘out-of-town’ location, which includes land owned by the football club’s sister company, 2020 Developments, at Junction 10 as intimated.

“We firmly feel that football clubs, particularly ours, are much more sustainable as businesses and are more able to contribute towards community, commercial and charity initiatives if the location of their stadium is embedded within their towns and cities.

“This very principle has been one of the cornerstones of the club since we took custodianship in 2008 and is a position we have stated before - in our representations to the Local Plan, in communication with the Council, in the local press and most latterly to the government inspector of the Local Plan.

“Without a stadium at Junction 10, where do we go?”

Sweet was also hopeful that the emerging Local Plan would agree that the club are best served in building a new home at Power Court too, adding: “The Local Plan is currently at its Examination Stage and the relevant policies for Newlands Park and Power Court are still to be discussed and decided upon.

“We have made our case in a professional manner and taken on board the best possible legal advice in doing so.

“Ultimately, it is for the members of the Council to decide whether the benefits of the sum of our two schemes outweigh any suggested negatives and are to be welcomed for the greater good of the town.”