Sweet confident a new stadium at Power Court is just a matter of 'when'

Hatters chief executive Gary Sweet
Hatters chief executive Gary Sweet

Luton chief executive Gary Sweet is remaining extremely confident that Town’s move to Power Court is a matter of 'when' and not 'if'.

The Hatters' plans for a new 17,500 stadium at the derelict venue, plus a mixed scheme at Newlands Park are with the council, with Town awaiting the planning officer to either recommend or oppose the applications sometime next month after consultation on the Retail Impact Assessment has concluded.

Sweet knows that, that should the club be given the green light, it will still be a fair while before they would be in a position to send the diggers in, as writing in his programme notes ahead of the Shrewsbury Town game on Saturday, he said: "It is almost becoming an annual event; for me to furnish you with an update as to the progress of our planning applications.

“Having just passed our second anniversary of our submission for our schemes at Newlands Park and Power Court, we can feel your frustration and I can be confident that the piece I shall be writing in my first programme notes of next season will be discussing more definite relocation plans.

“And, with our progress on the pitch continuing, it is needed more than ever.

“With over 6,000 season ticket members, two very well attended home games where few than five per cent of our seats remained, a very impressive 5,750 in total travelling away and two occasions where demand has exceeded supply, there is not doubt we need a bigger facility.

“Most of you will know from the local media that the final hurdle - in the shape of consultation on the council’s Retail Impact Assessment, as written by independent third-part specialists - is now closing during the next week.

“Once all responses are properly considered by the planning officer, he will then write his committee report recommending to either support or oppose our applications at a Council committee meeting, which should take place in a few weeks from then.

“Once a decision is finally made by the our councillors, there will still be a few hurdles to jump while greater powers decide whether to review anything before we receive an official decision notice.

“And even after that, there will also be several design details and commercial agreements we’ll need to reach with development partners before we put a spade in the ground, so whilst we work as hard and speedily as we possibly can, we will still ask you to remain patient and faithful.

“In summary, while the process has been prolonged due to the challenge placed upon the council’s planning department and scrutiny of various third parties, we’re very happy with the position we are currently in and we’re really looking forward to taking the next step. It’s not a matter of ‘if’, it’s just a matter of ‘when’."

Sweet also revealed that a new lease had been signed at their current home to meet EFL regulations, adding: "Meanwhile, we still have a duty to look after our lovely old girl, Kenilworth Road.

“Due to EFL rules, we still have regulations to comply with, This week, we signed a new ten-year rolling lease with Luton Council.

“This lease not only give us the required security of tenure throughout our relocation phase but it also sees an end to Luton Town’s rent ‘in-lieu or community contribution’ contract as we have amicably agreed a fair commercial sum for our tenancy.

“There’s nothing to read between the lines here, Upon our relocation this lease will terminate allowing the site to be developed for much needed commute use and housing, as determined.”