Sweet hopeful that frustrating Power Court delay will be over soon

An artists impression of how Town's Power Court stadium could look
An artists impression of how Town's Power Court stadium could look

Luton Town chief executive Gary Sweet remains hopeful of receiving a green light for the club’s plans to build a new stadium at Power Court before the end of the year.

The Hatters submitted a double proposal for a new 17,500 stadium at the venue along with an enabling mixed use scheme on land adjacent to Junction 10 of the M1, to include offices, retail space, a hotel and leisure amenities back in August last year.

It had been hoped that Luton Borough Council would put an officers’ report on the applications before councillors at the start of 2017, but this hasn’t proved the case and plans do not appear on the agenda for the November 8 committee.

Although a spokesman confirmed to the Luton News this week that the council is ‘committed’ to securing a new site for a stadium for the Hatters, Sweet admitted to a level of frustration that the process has dragged on for so long now.

Writing in his programme notes ahead of yesterday’s 1-0 FA Cup win over Portsmouth, he said: “We’re now in our 16th month of having our applications reviewed by Luton Council and the delay in seeing a determination is a real frustration for us, naturally, as it will be for you, especially as we see other largescale applications submitted and determined in this period.

“However, it has been necessary for the Council to ensure that our applications have been reviewed more robustly to avoid a successful challenge from those parties who seem happy for Luton to stagnate.

“I can report that after being asked to jump hurdles we are in the final throes of the process and still hope to hear of a successful determination by the end of the calendar year.

“Thank you for your patience on this vital development.”

Earlier in the week, Cllr Sian Timoney, deputy leader of council and executive portfolio holder for regeneration, gave an update on her facebook page as to what the council's position was, writing: "There has been a lot of talk about reasons for delay of determination of planning apps.

"Many automatically assuming council causing delay. To explain, there are lots of things council must do and many that applicants have to do.

"Add into that legal people and their input, the potential impending challenge of any decision and the overriding need to get this completely accurate to address any of those potential challenges, there are then lots of reasons that may cause the determination to be delayed.

"I would ask all keep positive and be patient. Both council and applicants are committed to getting this process done as soon as possible.

"The most important thing is to get this right."

Before Town get started on their new ground though, the club’s plans to use the Power Court site for short term public car parking, to help with the cost of their stadium, will come into fruition this week.

Sweet continued: “Meanwhile, aside from fending off further incursions of travellers on to our Power Court site all week, by the time you read this our new car parks on site should be finished and ready for public use.

“Usage of the site is important to us - we could never understand why more hasn’t been done to bring some life to Power Court, even if it is temporary (until we start constructing more permanent and exciting features, of course!).

“As of next week, we will have around 500 car park spaces available for use on a newly laid and illuminated surface for town centre users.

“RCP will be our operating partner on a day-to-day basis and introductory charges will start at just 50p per hour and £4 per day.

“Please use it when you can as all income will go towards the stadium development.

“Hopefully further developments will continue to unlock Power Court in the short term too, so keep your eyes peeled.

“The more activity we put on the site the less it will be seen as an eyesore.”