Benefits of Luton Town's Power Court development outweigh the disadvantages, says council report

The benefits of Luton Town's planned new stadium development at Power Court outweigh any disadvantages, a Luton Council planning officer's report has concluded.

Tuesday, 8th January 2019, 2:14 pm
Updated Thursday, 10th January 2019, 2:48 pm

The Hatters’ scheme has been recommended for approval in the report published this morning in advance of next Wednesday’s (January 16) Luton Council committee meeting.

The Hatters’ outline application for the town centre site will go before the Development Control Committee at the Town Hall from 6pm with members being advised by planners to back the scheme.

The proposals are for a stadium with a capacity of up to 23,000, up to 550 residential units (across eight blocks); an entertainment, music and conference venue (up to 2,700sq metres); educational/community/commercial floorspace (up to 2,800sq metres); other entertainment floorspace (up to 2,600sq metres); hotel accommodation (up to 12,000sq metres); retail and food and beverage floorspace (up to 10,800sq metres), foodstore (up to 3,000sq metres); and up to 1,200 car parking spaces.

Power Court

The committee report states there have been 62 letters of objection received, 80 anonymous letters, and 8,727 letters of support.

It says the application “raises numerous planning issues” requiring a “difficult and complex” evaluation of many impacts, both positive and negative.

The report says: “The impacts of the proposal are considerable and wide-ranging. The proposed football stadium with ancillary facilities, the commercial development and the new housing, would completely transform the site providing a major opportunity to add to the ongoing regeneration of the Borough.

“The overall scheme would create many new jobs, and would continue to ensure that spending in the Borough by spectators, visitors and residents, aiding local economic activity and growth, would be maintained. The construction phase would create jobs over the build period, whilst the expanded operations for LTFC, the hotel, and other commercial uses, plus the expected expenditure of football supporters and new residents would raise permanent employment in the area by, potentially 677 jobs.”

Power Court stadium

The report points out the scheme is in breach of the Local Plan objectives for the town centre and the Power Court site, as “the stadium would displace the potential for a significant element of comparison retail development”.

Because of this, if approved, the application would be referred to the Secretary of State who has the power to ‘call it in’ for his consideration.

It also adds: “The development will cause less than substantial harm to heritage assets, a matter to which particular weight and importance must be given. It is considered that the potential benefits resulting from the development are of a nature and scale as to outweigh the harms identified.”

Opponents to the development have raised concerns about the potential for traffic congestion.

But once the stadium is operational, the report says traffic at key road junctions would not exceed a 30% change which is “a negligible impact in terms of severity”.

It says: “This increase in traffic is considered to occur for approximately 30 match days a year and the impact on the junctions in the study area are of temporary, minor adverse nature.”

The report also adds that:

> The impact on the environment during construction, and on both match-days and non-match days are satisfactory.

> Effects on neighbours to the site are on balance satisfactory.

> The proposed housing would make a significant contribution to the Borough’s supply of new housing.

> Power Court is perhaps the most accessible location in Luton. The siting of a stadium in this location where a multitude of transport choices exist allows supporters to travel sustainability with as little impact across a wide number of modes and services as possible.

> The Plaiters Lea Conservation Area sits close to the site and the impact is considered to be moderate adverse in significance, although the character of the area is already impacted by modern development.

> The impact on St Mary’s Church, which is listed, would be moderate adverse in significance. The general effect on the character of Luton would be minor and not significant.

> In addition to the stadium, other new facilities at Power Court could add another £455.3m of value to the Luton economy between August 2020 and July 2040 (an average of £22.8m per year) and approximately 793 FTE jobs.

The report continues: “There have been a number of development proposals, and expressions of interest, in respect of proposals for the redevelopment of the application site, however, these have not come to fruition. The application now before members is, therefore, the first for a considerable number of years (13), which provides comprehensive proposals to regenerate this site.

“The site is owned by the applicant in its entirety, and has been bought specifically to relocate the football stadium from Kenilworth Road. The additional uses incorporated into the proposal could provide for the comprehensive redevelopment of the site. In particular the community use would be a benefit. The fact that this application has now come forward, in the absence of any such proposals in the last 13 years, means that there is at least an opportunity for delivery.”

The council says a Stadium Management Plan would adequately control most impacts. It adds: “However despite such measures to minimise concerns, there would be some unavoidable inconvenience and disruption from large crowds being introduced to areas that formerly did not experience such impacts.

“Where this is the case, the temporary, intermittent nature of the impacts should be balanced against overall benefits of the development and in this regard it is concluded retention of LTFC in the area, and securing its long term survival is considered to be of wider benefit.”

A link to a live streaming of the meeting and also a FAQ section is available via Power Court plan – along with the Newlands Park retail/office/leisure scheme near M1 J10, which Hatters say is needed to finance the stadium – were first submitted in August 2016, but there have been countless delays much to the frustration of the club’s fans.

The Newlands Park proposal is due to go before the council on January 30.