2020 confirm Newlands Park retail will be 'scaled back'

Moran not expecting any resistance from Luton Borough Council over revised plans

Friday, 19th March 2021, 9:29 am
Updated Friday, 19th March 2021, 9:32 am
How Newlands Park could now look - pic: Leslie Jones Architecture

2020 Developments chief operating officer Mike Moran has confirmed that the retail and leisure element at the club's mixed use scheme at Newlands Park will be ‘scaled back’.

When receiving planning permission back in March 2019 for the development, which is crucial to financing a new 17,500 stadium at Power Court, the Hatters stated that the development would consist of ‘new offices, retail, leisure facilities, restaurants and bars as well as a 300-bed hotel.’

However, that has now had to change, with the club revealing their revised plans and timelines for both sites yesterday, as speaking to BBC Three Counties Radio this morning, Moran said: “That's also been under review and we're fortunate with how great that location is.

“We've got quite a lot of interest from companies wanting to work with us, so we've scaled back the retail and leisure element there, that will be no surprises to anybody.

“It's still got a key retail focus, but the majority of the site now is not retail.

“We could sit on our hands and wait to see what's going to happen over the next couple of years but we want to get on and deliver it, so it's a mix of high tech business space, offices still, can deliver a lot of jobs as well as a retail element.”

On whether he was worried that companies wouldn’t be looking for offices in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic which has seen a number of people now working from home, Moran continued: “Offices is still just one part of the overall site.

“We've got a consent for 1.5 million square feet or so, offices is an important part of it, we want to deliver quality jobs for the local area but a majority of the site is more flexible business space that we do have a lot of demand for.

"In the modern world, it's a pretty fluid definition of what business space is.

"It's an absolutely prime location, it won't be some dirty shed, but there will be flexible space.

"There could be an element of distribution but equally the inquiries we’ve had at the minute, is looking at an office element, some research and development, some type of high tech space that is hopefully befitting of that site.”

The plans are to be put to Luton Borough Council by April/May this year and Moran isn't anticipating to be met with any resistance, despite recent issues regarding a new training dome for the club's academy at Cutenhoe Road.

He continued: “We've always been able to see a bigger picture with the council and to work with them on these big strategic aims.

"This project, it's over 4,000 jobs and we're working in line with council policy,

"I think we've always had a really good working relation with a vast, vast majority of the council and that's what we're focusing on.

“We do definitely expect the council to support them, we hope that they support them and I think when we first re-engaged with the council about making some tweaks to the plans, their first concerns was in the middle of the pandemic we had some issues and that we were no longer able to deliver that football stadium.

“So their fundamental relief is we've got some plans now that are deliverable, that we can still deliver the jobs and the aspirations that we have always fought for but it ultimately pays for Power Court.”

Town also announced they hope to play a first game at their new stadium in 2024 and Moran believes that although the pandemic has had an impact on certain things, the date is still very much achievable.

He added: "It's accelerated a few of these changes as we've had to go back to the design team to look at what's happened in order to make sure it's deliverable.

"But when we started on this whole journey, no one ever thought it would be easy and we're pretty confident that 2024 is now achievable, so we've got to work with what we have.

“I'd say end of the year at Power Court, early next year, we're focusing on getting that work underway so that people can see the site becoming a reality.

"With something like this there will always be bumps along the road, but what we've tried to achieve is be in charge of our own destiny with these schemes.

“We're not backed by a Russian or an Italian billionaire, we're in charge of our own destiny.

"All we can try and do is take small term steps in the right direction.

"The land is all bought freehold by Luton's investors and the ultimate aim of delivering a stadium back to the community debt free, that's still absolute on the cards.”