2020 confident there won't be any delays to Power Court or Newlands Park plans

Moran confirms process with Luton Borough Council is well underway

Wednesday, 24th March 2021, 8:31 am
Updated Wednesday, 24th March 2021, 8:32 am
An artist's impression of how Newlands Park could look - pic: Leslie Jones Architecture

2020 Developments chief operating officer Mike Moran remains confident that Luton Town’s revised proposals for a new stadium at Power Court and mixed use scheme at Newlands Park won’t be met with any opposition from Luton Borough Council.

The Hatters announced last week the latest plans and timescales for construction at both sites and confirmed they should find out whether they have been passed in either April or May.

The club also confirmed changes to their plans at Power Court, including the removal of a podium at the West End of the site, plus no longer looking to relocate the River Lea to run down St Mary’s Road and also increasing the number of residential units to approximately 1,200.

At Newlands Park, the retail and leisure element will also be scaled back, but speaking exclusively to the Luton News when asked if he was confident there wouldn’t be any delays on the horizon, Moran said: “To be clear, we’re in that process already, so hopefully they can be determined in May, but if it’s not May it might be June.

“It’s a different game now, in the sense that prior to Christmas we made amendments to the original permission, so that the first phase can come forward as it is.

“We already have permission for our first phase at Power Court, so we’re able to crack on and hopefully get a spade in the ground at the end of the year.

“This is revising the other elements and that’s in, they’re submitted and they’re up and running.

“Then the next key major element is the stadium where we’re working on the details on the stadium and that’s the exciting designs that will come forward later this year.

“It’s just making steps forward and that’s where Gary (Sweet, chief executive) and the club are central to every part of that process, making sure that the architects are responding to what the club needs.

“It’s fantastically exciting. We’ve been working on delivering this non-stop for the last year, as we’ve tried to align things to get things moving, so very, very exciting and ultimately, the message to supporters is about patience, we keep on making steps forward and we’ll get there in the end.

“We appreciate how important it is that we’ve got to get it right and we understand how important the new stadium is to all the fans and it’s on its way.

“We’ve been engaging with the local planning officers since well before Christmas on these planning applications and we’ve got certain areas to address and issues to resolve, but whether it’s next month, whether it’s May, we’re on that process and the principles of development have long since been agreed.

“So it’s fundamentally different to the planning applications previously because this isn’t a debate about should there be a stadium at Power Court? This isn’t a debate about should there be development at Newlands Park?

“This is about effectively the smaller details as much as the planning deadlines.”

After looking to move home for the last 50 years, Luton unveiled plans for Power Court back in 2016, with the stadium getting planning permission in January 2019, Newlands Park following suit two months later.

Although they could never have foreseen their efforts being hit by a global pandemic like COVID-19, Moran always knew it wouldn’t be plain sailing from the word go.

He continued: “You can never forecast those things, but we never thought it would be easy.

“I’m not aware of any examples where you’ve got the almost community led regeneration scheme, without government hand-outs, without foreign billionaires putting money in.

“We’re trying to do it off our own back, genuinely for the good of the town, so you get these blows, but you’ve just got to keep going forward.

“It’s separating what’s temporary from what is accelerating structural change, so the changes have cost money and they have ultimately affected things, but in some ways we’re fortunate because we haven’t started putting a spade in the ground.

“We’re able to make sure things are designed and positioned as well as they can be for the coming years.

“Ultimately from the outset, this thing has been unique in getting a stadium designed and delivered from a club perspective.

“It’s not been delivered from some other third party and everything we’ve set out to achieve is for the benefit of supporters and the town.

“So if it’s going to take a bit longer and we’re asking fans to be a bit more patient then ultimately it’s that responsibility for future grandchildren or future generations, but we’ve got to get it right now and we will and then it’s something that hopefully the whole town can be proud of.”

Following the determination of the revised applications for both sites, Town then intend to announce initial partner development companies in either May or June, with detailed plans revealed for the new stadium coming in the summer.

On how the efforts are going in securing the right companies, Moran said: “The important milestones are our agreements with partners, so we’ve got to get the right kind of partner that suits our business to ensure that these things are delivered in the way that we want.

“It’s going very well, the wider market understands that Luton town centre needs regeneration, it needs investment and we can build on the benefits of this location, so close to London.

“Then at Newlands, the location and the prominence is good, so the process for us is about selecting the right type of partner, that has the same values that we do, so that we can mutually be responsible to deliver this.”

With things going so well on the pitch for Town this season, as they are almost virtually guaranteed safety in the Championship for another term following a 1-0 win at Preston on Saturday, Moran insists remaining in the second tier does also help the plans, saying: “Ultimately the answer has to be yes, but it’s all part of this process of just trying to make one step at a time.

“When I first got involved in the club it was in the Conference, and you start making steps to do the right things in the right away, and that’s all you can do.

“All you’re responsible for is doing your own bit to the best of your possible endeavours, so in the same way the club are making their progress on the pitch, it all helps the wider group because clearly the more successful the football club is the more viable and enjoyable the stadium will be.”

The club have also stated they plan to have a spade in the ground by the end of the 2021 and when asked what that would feel like after so many years of waiting, Moran added: “It’s really important, but it’s just another milestone.

“It’s no more important than when the board signed off investment to buy the different parcels of land and getting planning permission in 2019, these are all key steps in the right direction.

"So it’s a case of when not if, it’s keeping asking for patience, as ultimately there are things outside of our control, but all we can do is to the best of our ability.”