Hatters refute claims Newlands Park development would affect the Mall

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Luton chief executive Gary Sweet has refuted claims that development of a mixed use scheme at Newlands Park will be like creating a new town centre.

In a document published by the Strategic Planning team on the Luton Borough Council’s official website this week, it stated that Town’s plans for a site that contained offices, a hotel and leisure amenities, would take business away from such other areas as the Mall.

We think Newlands Park will be complimentary to Luton town centre because we want to keep that spending power within our Borough and that will greatly support our overall economy.

Gary Sweet

It read: “Along with the retail, this will mean that the development effectively becomes a destination of a scale and function similar to being a new town centre that will draw trade, footfall and investment away from other locations.”

However, when asked for his reaction to the statement, Sweet said: “Well, firstly, we have already provided evidence to show that there is no impact. But the key point here is that Luton needs more retail development and it begs the question, can our town centre attract new, higher-end, aspirational retail brands? It simply can’t, as we know.

“On the other hand, Newlands Park will be an iconic gateway development which will genuinely attract brand new retail into our town.

“We like to view it as next generation retail and genuinely think it will be considered as one of the most unique and the best places to shop in the country – but it will be distinctly different to our town centre therefore it will not replace it.

“Our retail offering will differentiate by competing at a different level for spending that already largely leaks from Luton to other locations.

“Indeed, we think Newlands Park will be complimentary to Luton town centre because we want to keep that spending power within our Borough and that will greatly support our overall economy.

“Likewise, the offices where we are already in talks with some blue-chip companies for space that is not otherwise available in the town – without the retail element those first-class brands would simply not think about relocating to Luton.”

The council’s strategic planners also raised their concerns over the amount of jobs, thought to be 1,728, created at Newlands Park and the impact that will have on traffic in the surrounding areas.

However, Sweet continued: “The level of office jobs proposed for Newlands Park in our applications is much closer to the original plan that their comments suggest.

“Just like retail, what we are proposing would be different to Butterfield or Century Park and we have evidence to support that view in the form of statements from two of the leading experts in the fields of economics (KPMG) and commercial estate agency (Lambert Smith Hampton).

“Our transport assessments submitted as part of the planning applications take full account of all this and give no cause for concern.”

Meanwhile, the planners also commented on a new ground at Power Court negatively affecting the flow of traffic in the town on a match-day too.

But Sweet once again reiterated his comments made to the News/Gazette last month, as he added: “We care passionately about our town centre and to prove it we want to relocate there and help its heart beat. Let’s be frank about this potential impact, we’re talking about no more than 19-20 Saturdays per year, and only about one hour on each of those match days and, even then, many of those games may well be very low key.

“Compare that to the added vitality we will bring to the town not to mention the additional benefit of adding some car parking for 346-plus more days per year!

“Our detailed transport assessments submitted along with the Power Court plans assess both these issues and the conclusion is positive.

“It is important to bear in mind here that, for the vast majority of time the car park facilities at Power Court could actually be utilised for the benefit of the wider town.

“You will also have the other aspects of Power Court that will contribute significantly to bringing life and colour back into the town centre.

“We have been at Kenilworth Road for well over a century and really hope to be based at Power Court into the next millennium so we really do care as much about ensuring the town centre is successful as anybody else out there.”