Luton Town’s key supporter groups have accused Capital & Regional – owners of The Mall shopping centre – of being “arrogant, out-of touch with the local community, and misleading”.
The joint statement was issued yesterday in response to what the fans claimed was a “disgraceful” interview on BBC 3CR in which Capital & Regional (C&R) explained why it was objecting to the proposed new stadium development.
The interview with Ken Ford, a senior executive at Capital & Regional, made it clear that the company was opposed to a new stadium for Luton Town Football Club at the Power Court site in Luton.
Mark Bradbury, Chairman of the Loyal Luton Supporters’ Club, and Tony Murray, Chairman of Luton Town Supporters’ Trust, said the interview was “appalling and disgraceful”.
In a joint statement, they added: “Mr Ford dismissed the facts that 11,000 members of the community wrote personal emails and letters of support to Luton Borough Council and that the town’s two MPs support the plans too.
“The opinions of the council leaders are also on public record.
“There is a vast groundswell of public support, all wanting the new stadium to be built by the 2020 group, which owns LTFC.”
During the interview with BBC 3CR last week, Mr Ford made a series of arguments against the football stadium being situated near The Mall.
He said: “A football stadium is not necessarily appropriate.
“The reality is these are big buildings which are fundamentally used for four to six hours per week...
“So they don’t actually contribute too much to the economic vitality of a town centre. They are basically just massive buildings.”
Mr Ford put forward C&R’s own alternate proposal for Power Court site.
He said: “From our point of view we’re looking to create this urban park where people can live and play and work.”
When asked by presenter Justin Dealey why the company had waited 11 years to put forward those plans, Mr Ford responded that C&R had invested over £300m in Luton town centre since 2006 but that other factors such as the global financial crisis had held them back.
In response to the radio interview, the Luton Town supporters’ groups stated: “Why is C&R only talking about this now, despite being in Luton since 2008?
“Why should the people of Luton trust a company that has allowed the towncentre toeffectively shut down in the early evening and to create an environment of pound stores and surrounding eyesores.”
The supporters groups also were at loggerheads with C&R’s opposition to the proposed Newlands Park retail scheme. While C&R opposed the scheme, the two groups insisted the out-of-town development would “compliment” The Mall rather than rival it.