Mall owner accused of ‘delaying tactics’ by 2020 over claims Newlands Park would fail

Newlands Park image
Newlands Park image

The owners of The Mall stand accused of trying to “muddy the waters” after submitting a business review which claims Newlands Park would lose well over £100m.

Capital & Regional commissioned consultants CBRE to conduct a viability study of 2020 Development’s plans for a mixed-use retail and business space at Newlands Park.

The study was submitted to the council on Monday. C&R claims that Newlands would make a loss “well in excess of £100m,” and “thus could never help fund 2020’s Power Court proposal in any way”.

But 2020 developments, the property arm of Luton Town Football Club, claims C&R are using “delaying tactics” and that this “has been their overarching strategy since day one”.

CEO Gary Sweet said: “Each year of delay is one year we are further away from the Premier League.”

2020 stated: “The notion that a rival developer can pay its consultants to accurately cost and value proposals without them seeing any plans, knowing any of the detail or knowledge of any negotiations is ridiculous.”

2020 further accused C&R of adopting “a confused stance” after previously claiming that Newlands Park would negatively impact the town centre.

2020 stated: “The scheme at Newlands Park either represents a huge threat to their investment in The Mall by its potential trade impact or it is financially unviable and will never see the light of day – it cannot be both!”

According to CBRE’s analysis, Newlands Park would lose around £130 million.

C&R also commissioned consultants Cushman and Wakefield to peer review CBRE’s study.

Cushman and Wakefield’s analysis estimated a loss nearly the twice the size at £262m, with the claim that Newlands would be 50% unlettable even it did attract a department store.

C&R stated: “In short, both consultants agree that Newlands will not be developed and thus there will be no funds for the proposed Power Court stadium. This in turn would mean that all the claimed benefits of either scheme could never be realised.

“There is near universal support for a new stadium for the Hatters. Indeed, Capital & Regional supports the stadium proposal. But it is now clear that 2020’s current strategy will never deliver the stadium.

“We have offered to work with 2020 and Luton Council to help deliver the new stadium on numerous occasions.

“To aid that discussion, Capital & Regional has also commissioned research from the acclaimed sports practice at Deloitte to look at how sports stadia have been funded successfully in the UK over the last 10 years.

“We now once again call upon 2020 and Luton Council to sit down and work together to find a viable, sustainable and affordable funding solution for the Hatters’ new stadium on the Power Court site.”

But 2020 responded: “The two planning applications were submitted to Luton Borough Council in August 2016.

“Each day that they are delayed represents a significant loss to the town and its population in terms of missed investment and opportunity.

“If Capital & Regional put as much effort into developing their own business positively, rather than negatively and arrogantly challenging others and wasting taxpayers money, then the already large fall in footfall being experienced in their shopping centre along with any further impact from Newlands Park would be recovered before anything gets built.”

In a joint statement, Loyal Luton and Luton Town Supporters’ Trust stated: “Whilst it is disappointing that C&R yet again look to put a spoke in the wheels of these two planning applications, who really cares what their viability study says?

“These applications are nothing to do with them and they have shown that by their complete lack of knowledge.

“The very notion that a rival developer can pay its consultants to accurately cost and value the proposals from the Outline Planning applications without the benefit of any detailed plans, specifications or knowledge is frankly ludicrous.

“Not to mention the hypocrisy and double-speak of one minute saying that Newlands Park would have a massive impact on the town centre, and now saying that it can’t be built and is a financial impossibility!

“Rather than continuing to alienate the people of Luton who will have long memories over this, maybe C&R would be better applying their efforts in trying to manage a way out of their own looming business crisis, with footfall significantly down year on year in their flagship Mall in Luton and their share price continuing to plummet.

“They seem to be under-performing compared to most of their competitors, and with their market capitalisation down to circa £250m we can only presume their CEO is under increasing pressure from their institutional shareholders, leading to this aggressively protectionist corporate behaviour we are seeing.

“That’s their own problem. Ours, and that of everyone in and around Luton, and the town council, is that their transparent and increasingly desperate delaying tactics are costing the local economy of Luton a staggering £1m per working day according to the economic impact report submitted with planning applications.

“We say enough is enough. We again urge C&R, who claim to be in the heart of their communities, to drop the block, stop negatively and arrogantly challenging the plans for invaluable regeneration and growth, stop wasting taxpayers money and embrace these exciting opportunities that the people of Luton so desire.

“This is our town. This is our time.”