Verdict delayed on Luton Town’s Newlands Park scheme

A decision on plans for a mixed-use development that will be a key element of English Championship football club Luton Town’s effort to deliver a new stadium has been delayed amid concerns from Central Bedfordshire Council over a lack of time to study changes to the proposal.

Luton Town’s partner in the project, 2020 Developments, submitted a 38-page late sheet to councillors ahead of a development management committee meeting, according to the Luton Today website.

A revised set of plans for the 37-acre Newlands Park project had earlier been recommended for approval by the local authority’s planning officers, with separate outline schemes for the north and south of the site submitted by 2020 Developments.

The revised plans for the north and south plots of land include reduced space for retail and leisure, along with environmental impact assessments. Councillors have objected to the lack of time to study the updates, the majority of which are said to be related to the latter two areas of land.

The two applications were deferred by a unanimous vote to January 26. Liberal Democrat councillor David Franks is said to have described the situation as “completely unacceptable”, after the issue was initially raised by Labour town mayor and councillor, Mahmood Hussain.

Labour councillor Dave Taylor, who chairs the committee, said he was unaware of the extra material. Labour councillor Anne Donelon added: “If there’s any concern whatsoever among us that we can’t properly scrutinise this, it should be deferred so there’s a fair hearing of this matter.”

The latest news comes after 2020 Developments last month agreed a deal to sell the land for the Newlands Park project to an investment fund advised by Morgan Stanley Real Estate Investing (MSREI) and developer Wrenbridge.

At the time, Luton Town chief executive, Gary Sweet, said it was an “important milestone deal for us”. He added that the deal “will go a considerable way towards securing funding” for the new stadium.

Luton Town in October stated that it intended to submit final plans for its new 17,500-seat stadium in the first half of 2022, stating the project was 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. The application entered by 2020 Developments covered the land either side of the new stadium.

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

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

Image: Leslie Jones Architecture