'˜Give up' - Luton urges C&R to drop opposition to development plans

'Give up' was the strong message from residents, politicians and Luton Town in a unifying call against the owners of The Mall who are opposing the football club's redevelopment plans.

Capital & Regional has been vocal in its opposition to the proposed stadium at Power Court as well as the linked Newlands Park development off Junction 10 of the M1. Last Friday, C&R’s project director for Luton, Ken Ford, appeared at the High Town Club to speak to fans directly about the company’s stance.

Also there were MPs Gavin Shuker and Kelvin Hopkins, deputy leader of Luton Borough Council Cllr Sian Timoney, and chairman of Luton Town Supporters Trust Tony Murray, all of whom spoke strongly in favour of the Power Court stadium.

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In spite of what was widely seen as a “battering” – with Mr Ford the lone voice against the plans – he insisted that it was a success.

Speaking to the Luton News following the meeting, Mr Ford said: “I enjoyed the openness of Friday’s meeting and the welcome shown towards me and my colleagues by many people in the audience.

“The passion locally for both the club and the regeneration of the town is truly impressive.

“I was glad of the opportunity to meet with the fans and residents face to face, listen to their views, offer our alternative vision for the town centre and clarify our position on the consequences as we see them of 2020’s two linked planning applications.

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“The linking of those two applications does create a very tangled situation for us, but there are undoubtedly areas where we can find agreement with 2020 Developments and Luton Borough Council and I am glad to continue to meet with them at any time. Those would be open discussions, without any preconditions.”

Mr Ford’s characterisation of Friday’s meeting as a success was scoffed at by fans, one of whom called it a “car crash”.

Tony Murray said: “One thing I will say is that it was great he came and he took a fair amount of flack. I don’t think he could claim any sort of positive outcome from it.

“He can’t be left with any feeling other than that everyone at that meeting was in favour of the 2020 proposals. I think this is a smokescreen and their real objection is Newlands Park and not Power Court.”

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But Mr Ford added: “We do share a common cause in trying to agree a plan that both secures the long term prosperity of the town centre and rehouses the football club. Fundamental for us is finding a less damaging way of funding the stadium that everyone wants.”

In Friday’s highly-charged public meeting at the High Town Club, Mr Ford’s arguments against the proposed stadium were met with anger and derision from a crowd overwhelmingly in its favour.

And in a direct confrontation, LTFC chief executive Gary Sweet accused Mr Ford of threatening behaviour and swore never to sell the Power Court land to C&R – which has announced its own alternative vision of an ‘urban park’ for Power Court.