Sweet 'absolutely delighted' as Luton get green light for Power Court

Hatters chief executive Gary Sweet
Hatters chief executive Gary Sweet

Luton chief executive Gary Sweet declared he was ‘absolutely delighted’ after the club were given planning permission for new ground at Power Court last night.

A Luton Borough Council development control committee unanimously voted for the new stadium, almost two and half years after the Hatters submitted their application.

Although Sweet did allow himself to enjoy the victory momentarily, with a second application being heard on Wednesday, January 30, for a mixed use scheme at Newlands Park, which is crucial to Power Court going ahead, he wasn’t getting ahead himself.

He said: “I’m absolutely delighted we've got a resolution for a football stadium relocation in Luton, which is a momentous occasion.

“It's probably a victory in the biggest fixture in Luton Town's history. But we have a bigger fixture probably, in 14 days' time, which as of five minutes' time I'm going to be focused on, and my feet are now firmly planted on the ground.

“Forgive me if I'm not overly excited, but I am very happy."

When asked why the decision at Newlands Park will be so vital to the new stadium’s success at Power Court, Sweet continued: “It’s fundamentally crucial.

“There are reasons why two huge developments haven't been able to make anything of this site (Power Court), and anyone else.

“Principally, the cost to unlock that site is so huge.

“So huge, we need to take some capital from another development in its own right.

“Yes, there's decontamination, but the site used to have two great big chimneys on it, there's a sub-station, which does need moving, because it's roughly in the middle of the away end currently, we need to get that out.

“And, of course, the river. One of the things we don't necessarily have to do, but we want to do is to relocate the river to give it that sense of purpose, that public realm, and create that beautiful vista between the stadium and the church.

“So the river is really important to us there,but that is very expensive.

“All of those things there are very expensive. The cost of the land was very expensive. So all of those works are probably roughly not far off the cost of a football stadium itself. We do need some assistance from the other development.

“If Power Court didn't exist, Newlands Park would stand up on its own right, independently and be just as valuable to the town.

“It's a better gateway site. For us you've got more passers-by. You've got people flying over it, so it's visible and that's something we want to develop for Lutonians to be proud of. What that will also do is make Power Court actually happen. Without that it's going to be difficult."

However, Sweet did think that in football terms, the club are ahead now, adding: “I've said before it's like winning in the first leg of a two-legged football match. We have a slight advantage.

"We're Champions League semi-final, a goal or two up and got the away leg to face.

“So we’ve got the away leg to go, we've got permission which is fantastic, now need means to pay for that and that is just as crucial.

“We’ve got our feet firmly on the ground and we’re very very focused to what we have to achieve next, that’s the away leg, two banks of four, away we go.”

Meanwhile, chairman of the Luton Town Supporters Trust, Tony Murray added: “It's fantastic news. It's taken so long, 60 years for the club to get into this position. I am absolutely made up.

“I am overjoyed with that. But, at the same time, we've got to remember there's an equally important day coming up in two weeks' time.

“Power Court won't happen without Newlands Park, so it's important that we still pull together, we don't rest on our laurels and we get Newlands Park as well."