The extra traffic that will be generated by a new stadium at Power Court will not become a major concern to Luton according to chief executive Gary Sweet.
One of the Mall’s owners, Capital and Regional’s main concerns, brought up by executive director Ken Ford last week, was how a new ground built by the club on that destination could lead to gridlocked roads on a match day that would drive shoppers away from the town centre.
We’re not talking about pandemonium, we’re not talking about chaos, we’re not talking about the world falling in on Luton just because we’re playing a football match on that day.Gary Sweet
However, Sweet exclusively told the News/Gazette there wouldn’t be any real major difference to that of the traffic currently surrounding Kenilworth Road, as he said: “There are only a few doubters, including Capital and Regional who talk about it being every Saturday.
“First of all, drawing some clarity, we’re realistically talking about 18-20 Saturdays every year.
“Then within that Saturday, it’s not all day, probably less than an hour before the game and perhaps half an hour after the game.
“So roughly speaking, you’re talking around 30 hours per year where there may well be visible and increased level of traffic in that part of town on a Saturday.
“But that level of traffic won’t really be any greater than the level of traffic seen on a normal rush hour for example.
“So we’re not talking about pandemonium, we’re not talking about chaos, we’re not talking about the world falling in on Luton just because we’re playing a football match on that day.
“And you’ve also got to think we’re taking Kenilworth Road out of that network. Already, we see some issues with traffic because there’s nothing nearby for people to park and people feel they need to drive to Kenilworth Road to get here, but we’ve learnt to manage that pretty well.
“Whereas at Power Court we are right on top of the best public network links that we could locate ourselves in Luton with both the busway and two railway stations.
“From that perspective we feel in actually moving from Kenilworth Road to Power Court, that we won’t see the level of disruption we cause on a Saturday increase.
“It may shift a little from one part of town to another, but it won’t increase and we’re absolutely intent on making sure we work hard to minimise any issues that arise.”
Both Sweet and development director Michael Moran were keen to point out that the amount of time the club had taken in looking into the issue of traffic was substantial as Sweet continued: “The first assessment that we really started to undertake when our design started to be realised on Power Court was our traffic impact assessment because that’s the one thing that we knew that people would understandably raise as the obvious risk.
“That’s been an extensive piece of work and we’re very pleased with the outcome.
“What Capital and Regional fail to acknowledge is the additional income the Mall would get from that body of people along with the additional vibrancy that football matches will bring to the town of Luton on a match day.
“And then every other day of the year we can offer the town an increase in parking spaces on site. There’s going to be a few hundred parking spaces there, with many of those will be available to shoppers in the week and on the Saturday’s we’re not playing football.
“So the amount of positive advantages for us far outweigh the insignificant increase in traffic there maybe on the odd Saturday.”
Those views were echoed by Moran, who added: “The first year of talking to the council was consumed with traffic assessments and modelling work, and after detailed consideration we are absolutely convinced it works.
“There’s a 20-minute period between probably 2.30 and 10 to three where there will be like a busy rush hour, but all of the wider amenities at Power Court are designed to spread that out.
“There’s more to do beforehand, there’s more to do afterwards and Kenilworth Road already has an impact on the town centre, so transport is an issue, and that’s why it’s been the subject of all that work.”