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Luton moving forward with stadium plans, mixed-use project approved

English Championship football club Luton Town has said it intends to submit its final plans for its new 17,500-seat stadium in the first half of next year, stating the project is moving at a “blistering pace” after its associated mixed-use scheme was approved.

The stadium itself was missing from an application Luton Council considered and passed this week. The application entered by Town’s partner in the Power Court project, 2020 Developments, covered the land either side of the new stadium.

The planned mixed-use development includes residential accommodation, retail outlets, a health centre, restaurants, parking, landscaping and river works. It was unanimously approved by Luton Council’s development management committee.

Speaking at the meeting, Luton Town CEO Gary Sweet said, according to the Luton Today website: “Whilst this application really focuses on the wider uses of Power Court, its true benefit can’t be fully understood without consideration for our new football stadium.

“Our plans and designs are advancing at a blistering pace. We fully intend to submit the detailed application to you in the first half of next year. Everyone at the club is behind its creation and it’s our number one priority right now.

“Indeed, by working so hard on the stadium design, we think that we’ve made the whole site work much better together, making it more compact and integrated to the wider area. The stadium will not be a run-of-the-mill bowl that you see everywhere else.

“The value engineers everything and also turns back on its district. It will be unique to football, unique to Luton where it will incorporate the very best of the town’s heritage and character, acting inclusively for greater social cohesion for the residents of Power Court and the wider town centre.”

In March, Town announced that it intended to submit detailed plans for its new stadium in six months’ time. The news was disclosed as Luton and 2020 Developments, provided an update on the scheme, which also includes the Newlands Park mixed-use development. In January 2020, Luton was allowed to press ahead with the plans after being informed by the local council that no fresh appeal had been made against the project.

In March 2019, Luton Borough Council’s development control committee ruled that plans for the Newlands Park project should be approved after the club was granted permission to build a new stadium on the Power Court site in January of that year.

However, work has been unable to start on either site since then, with COVID-19 having a major impact on the delays. In its latest update, Luton and 2020 Developments said structural changes in the way the UK consumer shops, works and plays has required a revision to scheme plans originally conceived in 2015-16 prior to submission of original planning applications.

Both the club and 2020 Developments sought to use this week’s meeting to reassure councillors over their commitment to the stadium project. Michael Moran, chief operating officer of 2020 Developments, said: “The size of Power Court is almost extending the town centre by half.

“We’ve spent the best part of a decade to assemble the site at Power Court and it’s a public record of how much has been spent. But it’s substantially in excess of £10m (€11.8m/$13.8m). It would have been insane to have undertaken such a venture without being fully committed to the football stadium.”

Moran continued: “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.”

Luton has played at the 10,300-seat Kenilworth Road stadium since 1905.

Image: Leslie Jones Architecture