Work could start on Luton Town Football Club's multi-million pound Power Court stadium development as early as next year, if everything goes to plan.
Revised proposals, without the 17,500 all-seater stadium, were submitted by 2020 Developments (Luton) covering the areas on either side and unanimously approved by the Luton Borough Council development management committee last night.
The application is for a mixed-use development with residential accommodation, retail outlets, a health centre and community uses, as well as food and drinking premises, parking, landscaping and river works.
Hatters chief executive Gary Sweet told the local authority's development management committee: "Since we started earnestly on this project in 2015 what we've created is going to be a masterpiece.
"We're working on this harder than anything we've worked on in our lives at the moment.
"It's progressing very well.
"I don't want a position where we're promoted and have to live for three years in the Premier League at Kenilworth Road, which will be difficult.
"We could get ground grading consent for one or two years.
"To enable us to start with our cranes and spades next year for the stadium and wider site, this meeting is the catalyst for the development of a life-changing milestone."
Labour Farley councillor Dave Taylor, who chairs the committee, teased him: "So no ground sharing with Watford then?"
"Or anywhere," replied Mr Sweet. "Wembley probably wouldn't have us."
Chief operating officer of 2020 Developments Michael Moran said: "It's a complicated site, and we've taken the opportunity of the last 18 months to re-evaluate and improve.
"The fact it's challenging is evidenced because major property owners over the last 20 years have failed to take this forward.
"We proud to say we're on the cusp of delivery now, without the benefit of any public funds or grants.
"The essential change from the previous planning application is in the intervening time we've worked with the Environment Agency to make much better use of the River Lea.
"It's given us the chance to continue the river on its natural path and open it up through centre of the site."
The podiums at the west end and the east end have been dropped, according to Moran, who continued: "Instead of going up two stories to enter the site, pedestrians walk directly in from Guildford Street, Church Street and St Mary's Road.
"Relocating to Power Court enables a once in a century opportunity for the council and the local community to come together in Bury Park, and make best use of that seven-acre site we're vacating at Kenilworth Road.
"We're increasing the number of affordable homes from 55 to 240.
"Parking will be policy compliant with about 1,200 spaces."
Labour Northwell councillor Anne Donelon said: "We all desperately want this stadium and we all want Luton Town to be in the Premier League.
"And I know we need the accommodation as well."
Liberal Democrat Barnfield councillor David Franks described it as "a major development", saying: "They all carry risks.
"As far as Luton is concerned the particular risk is a major development in the town centre, a problem many people have been trying to solve for a long time.
"The biggest risk for me is that Power Court remains undeveloped for yet another 20 years and remains the mess it's been.
"I had concerns when the previous outline application came in for the whole site.
"I have to say I've fewer worries reservations now than I had then."
Labour Dallow councillor Abbas Hussain said: "I've full faith in Gary. I'm sure if it wasn't for Covid we'd have got the structure up by now."