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Key Luton Town stadium project approved

Newlands Park, a mixed-use development deemed crucial for the successful delivery of a new stadium for English Championship football club Luton Town, has been approved.

The latest news comes after a decision on the plans was delayed earlier this month 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, had submitted a 38-page late sheet to councillors ahead of a development management committee meeting.

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 objected to the lack of time to study the updates, the majority of which were said to be related to the latter two areas of land.

However, Luton Borough Council has now approved the plans for Newlands Park, with the two applications now being subject to Section 106 legal agreements being signed and referral to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove.

“The rationale for the proposals maintains the claw back of trade leaking from Luton to other centres and the economic benefits a development of this scale will bring, creating employment and generating local economic stimulus,” said planning consultant David Hall, according to the Luton Today website.

“It’ll be necessary to ensure the delivery of the football stadium at Power Court to slab level, through a Section 106 obligation, before any part of the retail and leisure elements on this application site can be occupied.

“The overall scheme would create many jobs and continue to ensure spending in the borough by visitors and residents would be maintained, aiding local economic activity and growth.”

Michael Moran, 2020 Developments chief operating officer, added: “As we’ve explained previously the approval for Newlands Park is a key part of our ambition to deliver the new stadium at Power Court.

“On its own it doesn’t guarantee it, but together with the wider scheme of residential and facilities at Power Court, we’ve a plan that works to achieve that target.”

In December, 2020 Developments 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.

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

Image: Leslie Jones Architecture