All we want is a bright new future for Luton and we know how to get it, you know how we get it, Luton Town Football Club knows how to get it, Luton Council knows how to get it and even the secretary of state knows how to get it.
The regeneration schemes at Newlands Park and Power Court are a major step in this direction and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to transform our town and act as a catalyst for further change and improvements. A UK planning record number of you understood this in 2016 and back the plans.
So, it stands to reason that local people are furious that Capital & Regional – the London and Johannesburg-based owners of The Mall shopping centre – have applied to the High Court for a judicial review over Newlands Park, despite our council giving it the green light in March this year.
We know from the thousands of you that support us on social media and our website that there are many people so fed up that they are looking for what they can do next. While the legal proceedings – that could cost Luton taxpayers between £500,000 and £1million to defend – are in the hands of lawyers and judges, we’ve had many people contact us, calling for a boycott of The Mall.
Many of you may already have done this long before the frustrations around Newlands Park, because the current town centre just doesn’t provide what you need. That is fundamentally why Newlands Park is so badly needed. First and foremost, it will help stop Luton pounds leaving the town for better quality shopping and leisure venues like Milton Keynes, Watford, St Albans and London. It will also help fund the development at Power Court, including Luton’s new 17,500-seat stadium, which will improve footfall in the town centre and, as a result, also benefit The Mall.
At present, neither exist. Yet Capital & Regional themselves admit that the town centre is struggling. The buck stops with them on that front. Yet here we have two developments that will bring 10,000 new jobs and £250m a year into the local economy, plus deliver more people right to their doorstep, and it’s a gift horse they’re prepared to look in the mouth.
So, we fully understand that people are so furious that they no longer want to step foot inside that shopping centre. If this is already the case, that is your prerogative.
However, we will not support a boycott for one simple reason – it will not affect Capital & Regional. Not in the slightest.
A boycott would only affect the businesses in The Mall and therefore its employees, many of whom are our friends, family, neighbours and fellow Lutonians. We look after our own in this town, so that’s not something we can do in good conscience.
Capital & Regional, however, don’t make their money from the amount you do or do not spend in the shops. They make most of their money in two ways. One is from rents, so if one shop closes down or ships out, they’ll just replace it with another. The evidence of that seems to be for an inferior outlet. But, either way, their rent money keeps rolling in whether it’s a Marks and Spencer or a 99p superstore.
The other way that C&R squeeze Lutonians for our hard-earned cash is through their car parks – and they make a small fortune from them.
According to their annual report, across the UK in 2018 – from car parks for their eight shopping centres – they made £10.7million. This increased by 2.3 per cent from the previous year, which increased 7.2 per cent from the year before that.
The cash they make from car parks is around 12 per cent of their annual revenue, but perhaps more startlingly, given that very few overheads will be incurred in that activity, their car parks probably account for around 40 per cent of their total profit, of roughly £25million.
So, while we won’t support a boycott of The Mall, we, as a group, and individually, have decided to completely shun the Central car park, Library car park and Market car park.
Instead, we will be using the car park at Power Court opposite the Parish Church by the traffic lights. For one, it’s owned by Luton Town Football Club, who have demonstrated time and again, under their 2020 board, that they care about our town. Not only do they want it to be better, but they are the organisation that has come up with plans for Power Court and Newlands Park, so they have put their money where their mouths are and got the plans approved.
But parking at Power Court will also cost us less. On Saturdays and Sundays, the busiest shopping days of the week, we can park all day at Power Court for £2.40. At The Mall’s car parks, the same option will cost us £8. And Power Court is cheaper during the rest of the week too, or with a match-day deal offered by the football club.
To put it in perspective, we estimate that if each one of C&R’s 1,724 spaces across the Market, Central and Library car parks went unused on a Saturday alone it would cost them £13,792 every week (that’s nearly three quarters of a million pounds a year).
We won’t give them a penny of our money and will avoid The Mall’s car parks like the plague. We believe this is a decision that is in the best interests of OUR town….and our pockets.
We trust our supporters will come to their own conclusions when it comes to town centre parking.