Luton CEO confirms Town are ‘pressing forward’ with Power Court plans despite being in the ‘worst decade’ to build a new ground
Luton chief executive Gary Sweet has confirmed that the club are still ‘absolutely pressing forward’ with plans for their new ground at Power Court, despite trying to build a stadium in what is the ‘worst decade’ in which to do so.
It was back in January 2019 that the Hatters initially received planning permission for the 17,500 all-seater stadium, but have since seen attempts to relocate delayed significantly by the coronavirus pandemic.
That led to a major rethink of their application, with revised proposals from 2020 Developments, the property arm of the club, unanimously approved by the Luton Borough Council development management committee almost 12 months ago.
It also meant the Hatters needed to submit a new detailed planning application, as back in February, Sweet had stated they would be revealed to the public during the first half of 2022.
With that date passing and no plans forthcoming, then giving an update in his programme notes ahead of last night’s 1-1 draw with Sheffield United, the CEO revealed just how tough a process Power Court has become, saying: “It hasn’t gone unnoticed that many supporters are waiting anxiously on news of Power Court’s progress and, as these are my first notes of the season, I can bring you up to speed.
“Most importantly, I can confirm we are absolutely pressing forward with our new stadium as quickly as we possibly can.
“In these times, with the widespread challenges we have and continue to face, it is never going to be a quick and easy project to manage.
“Arguably, if a paid economic or political specialist could possibly pick the worst decade to carry out the task of planning and building a new stadium and regenerating a town centre, without the need of a contribution from the public purse, it would certainly be the ten-year period from our outline submission.
“The wide-ranging, unprecedented obstacles we have in front of us – escalating materials costs, supply chain delays, labour shortages, interest rate rises, energy shortages – have certainly tested our resolve and most would have given up by now.
“But as long as we can avoid any further unforeseen major catastrophes, we will be submitting a detailed planning permission this Autumn.
“Admittedly, this is later that we wanted and later than I’ve previously indicated.
“There have been issues completely outside of our control that have mainly led to this delay.
“Additionally, we have needed to complete another re-design of the stadium and infrastructure, which has taken time, to save some cost, navigate our way around wildly erratic material pricing, carbon reduction compliance and the phasing of the build.”
Sweet did also go on to state that there will be some movement on site in the near future too, as he added: “The first major step towards seeing proper activity on Power Court is the moving of the sub-station, and I can confirm that after a prolonged period of negotiation and design we have just handed UKPN with a multi-million-pound binding commitment to start that process to their earliest schedule.
“To assist with this, ground works in certain areas will commence when our detailed application is being considered, and we have just started to engage formally with potential contractors.
“Once again, I am making a plea for patience and understanding given that that the programme of works will be a long one, which also has to deal with the River Lea opening and huge ground levelling schedule.
“All of this will naturally require the support from the Council, our neighbours and those important statutory consultees, which, of course, we are currently progressing.
“Meanwhile, I’ll continue to provide updates as we progress.”