Luton Town Football Club Director Stephen Browne has that said events leading up to Monday’s historic Newlands Park planning decision were about the whole of Luton and Bedfordshire ‘coming together for one purpose – to save our town!’
Luton Borough Council approved 2020 Developments’ planning application for a major regeneration scheme at junction 10 of the M1 motorway, having previously approved an application for Power Court in January, which will one day be the new home of a 17,500-seater stadium for the Hatters, as well as more facilities for the whole community.
Writing in the From the Boardroom match day programme column, ahead of the 2-2 League One draw at home to Gillingham, Browne praised the work and support of everyone in the whole community and wrote: ‘Our town is a pretty amazing place to be at the moment.’
The director also called for more patience as the club and the town now waits to hear whether the Secretary of State will call in the Newlands Park application and whether any objectors apply for a Judicial Review.
Browne also reflected on the ‘rollercoaster’ since 2020 became custodians of Luton Town Football Club 11 years ago, looking back on the commitments they made when they started out, which were:
- Being, whenever and wherever possible, open, honest, and transparent
- To ensure stability and to operate ‘within our means’
- Reigniting and preserving the club’s great name, culture and identity
- To re-establish trust and confidence with all the stakeholders….supporters, staff, community, neighbours, businesses and public servants
- To play at a competitive level that they felt was part of the fabric of the club, i.e. the Championship at least – by 2020.
- To play in a new stadium, by 2020.
He wrote: ‘We hope you agree that we have done our best to deliver on every single one of those commitments, and whilst we would have liked to be at Power Court sooner, the fact remains, it is now a reality that we have a path ahead!’
In his programme notes Browne added: “We know everyone wants to know when they can bring their spades and hard hats to start getting on with the job. Well, there are two sides to that.
“Firstly, the planning process means we need to await the decision from the Secretary of State as to whether it is felt that the application should be ‘called in’. This mean scrutiny to see and ensure that the decision that has been taken is consistent with local and national planning guidelines.
“With Power Court, we heard within a week or so that it was not going to be ‘called in’, and as Sian Timoney [deputy leader of Luton Council] has stated in the media, we hope we hear about this – more complex – proposal as quickly as possible. However, the Secretary of State has a time period within which to act so we must wait patiently whilst matters take their due course.
“Once we overcome that hurdle, secondly then any objector can apply for a ‘Judicial Review’. This focuses on the ensuring correct processes were followed throughout each stage from when the applications were lodged.
“Again, there are timescales for any application to be made, and indeed there may not be any application for Review at all, so we must await the expiry of that timeframe before we know for sure that there is to be no review and work can start.
Even then, as Gary [Sweet, Hatters chairman] has stated, there is work to be done on clearing and preparing the ground.
‘So, a politician’s answer regarding a start date! Yes, we again ask for patience. You have been superb in showing belief and patience firstly in the Club turnaround that lasted 6-8 years, and then in the planning process which has been another 2-4 years. But now we are in the end game so what you know for sure is that it will be as soon as practicably possible, and wheels have been in motion for some time.
“We will keep you updated and, unlike Brexit, we have a plan so please stick with us, enjoy the Kenny whilst it lasts, the time will just fly by and, before you know it, we will be in our new home.
‘What a force for positive change we have all created! Word is spreading far and wide. In the dark days we garnered a lot of support and sympathy from people around the world – for some it was their first introduction to Luton Town and our history.
‘Today, people remember that little ol’ distressed English club and they are taking a second look at what we have become. Through hard work, never ending belief, and trust in each other, we are now being talked about by so many in the media and we have made many, many friends.
‘People have noticed that this in not about one start player or done by one person, or done simply with uber money…no, this is about a whole town and county, from all walks of life and backgrounds, coming together for one purpose – to save our town!
‘What we have done is quite simple – we have put the nation’s greatest game and unifying force and placed it at the heart of the community, with the sole purpose of developing an exciting future for generations to come.
‘And all of this was done by the community for the community…no issues of gender, race, faith, age, nationality, money, ability, accent…a community acting as one for the good for everyone.
‘’Wow! Our town is a pretty amazing place to be at the moment. Everyone is pushing boundaries, and everyone is making Herculean efforts. Our task now is to nurture this positive energy to even greater effect.
‘As we have said before, we thank everyone who travelled to Bradford on Tuesday and grown men cried again as the clock ticked ‘20’ and you showed your appreciation for this week’s news.
‘We don’t know what to say and no doubt you will see the messy sight of grown men blubbing again today. Thank you for believing in us, thank you for sticking with us through thick and thin, thank you for the part you have played – we hear you and we are humbled to be part of such and amazing community. ‘