Town chief executive Gary Sweet praised the ‘milestone’ decision to grant planning permission for Power Court, but highlighted that approval for Newlands Park at the end of the month is just as vital.
Luton Borough Council gave the green light for Luton Town Football Club 2020 Ltd to build a new stadium on Power Court last night at the Town Hall, much to the delight of the club officials and supporters who managed to get a seat there.
Speaking to #SaveOurTown’s James Cunliffe in the immediate aftermath, Sweet said: “We’re in the Champions League semi-final, a goal or two up and then we’ve got the away leg to go. We’ve got permission which is fantastic, but we now need the means to pay for that and that’s just as crucial.
“We’ve got our feet firmly on the ground and are focused on what we have to achieve next – that’s the away leg. Two banks of four, away we go!”
Gary also featured on BBC Three Counties Radio this morning, where he took questions from host Andy Collins on a range of subjects about the two applications, including when Power Court could potentially start to be built and how long the building process could take.
He said: “It’s massive, it’s a milestone. The last time this happened would have been around 106, 107 years ago, so it’s quite a momentous occasion. It’s a two legged tie, we’ve won the first one, we’ve now got to win the second one.
“There’s not a linkage as such [between the two applications], it’s just one effectively funds much of the other. You’ve got to think that the piece of land that we are putting the stadium on at Power Court is a horrendous site.
“There used to be two cooling chimneys on that site, there’s a lot of contamination, we want to move the river out, we’ve got to remove the substation, a lot of levelling. So before we even start, the cost of that isn’t far off the cost of a football stadium and nobody else could unlock that piece of land in Luton, and particularly in the Town centre, it needs that revitalisation.
“So unless there is something else to fund that process, then it will remain derelict forever. This is why principally we need Newlands to be passed. No developer is going to have that kind of money to unlock that particular site.
“Technically yes [we could start clearing the site today]. It’s not the sort of thing we can start putting millions into, we will start to do some further investigation work etc. So there will be some progress, but we can’t really start the building process as such until we’ve got the planning permission granted on the 30th of this month for Newlands Park.
“We’ve gone through matters and detail phases on both applications as such, which also took some time, but we’ve struck some commercial deals with other developers to get those things off the ground. It’s a long old process!
“I think one thing Luton fans have learned is patience. We’ve had ten years now of nurturing this football club back to life and I think they have been really, really patient with us and our communication, the way we’re messaging this is everything is on track.
“I think everyone understands and appreciates the fact it’s going to take some time before we can really start digging holes. So I really thank them for that patience. The most important thing is we’ve got permission for the football stadium and that puts us in a really good position, a really strong position, that does ultimately mean we will move to Power Court.
“For us, we believe in terms of the construction phase, we’re talking about 18 months, but there’s a long way to go before that. That doesn’t include the phase of clearing the site. I wouldn’t class it as a delay, we’re planning ahead. So I am sure supporters are going to be asking ‘when are we moving in?’
“We don’t really want to be committing to a date. It’ll be three years down the line that I would imagine that we would move in. Ideally we would like to move in at the start of a season, rather than someway through the middle of one.”
You can listen to Gary’s full interview on BBC 3CR by clicking here and skipping to 2:09:05.