Luton Borough Council will make a decision on the planning applications for Power Court and Newlands Park in January 2019 – with the #saveourtown campaign group welcoming the announcement but warning that support for the local authority will end if there are any further delays.
The applications will be dealt with in two separate planning committee meetings, as they are two applications that can stand up on their own independently, with a Power Court decision date set for January 16, 2019, and a decision on Newlands Park to be made on January 30, 2019.
Yesterday (December 5), #saveourtown Chairman, Nigel Green, and Vice Chairman and Business Liaison Officer, Andy King, met with Luton Borough Council Leader, Cllr Hazel Simmons MBE, Deputy Leader, Cllr Sian Timoney, and Director of Planning and Regeneration, Laura Church, at the Town Hall, for urgently requested talks. Representatives of the Luton Town Supporters’ Trust and Loyal Luton supporters’ groups were also present.
#saveourtown has consistently given its tacit support to the council during the extremely protracted planning applications, which were submitted in summer 2016. This has been in recognition that the absurd level of delay in getting the applications heard by the authority’s planning committee were largely due to the objections and delaying tactics employed by Capital & Regional, who own the leasehold of The Mall shopping centre in Luton.
Ensuring that the applications and the work of processing the applications were fastidiously accurate and comprehensive was always going to offer the best chance that objectors would have no grounds to successfully apply for a judicial review of the applications, which would cause even further delay of course.
Recently, however, there has been a substantial increase in frustration, anger and resentment among local people over the lack of progress statements, since a previously scheduled August planning decision meeting was postponed. Together with the likelihood that the promised December deadline for a rescheduled meeting would be missed, this led to a sense of betrayal felt towards the elected representatives and executives at Luton Borough Council.
Talk of street demonstrations, marches and rallies has been rife among Lutonians, along with suggestions that candidates supporting #saveourtown and the Power Court and Newlands Park regeneration plans should stand in marginal wards at the elections to be held in May next year.
Nigel Green said: “At yesterday’s Town Hall meeting, #saveourtown made it very clear that the patience of many Luton voters over this issue was paper thin and that enough is enough as far as delays are concerned. Questions were asked over the personal commitment of elected representatives to get the job done and get the regeneration project underway.
“We also asked if the council had devoted enough resources to processing the application and whether that was a factor in the delays. In both instances, we were positively assured and advised that external expertise had been brought in to bolster the resources and expertise available.
“During the course of the meeting, #saveourtown were advised that, in fact, both applications would go before the planning decision committee before the end of January 2019.
“Furthermore, Ms Church, Cllr Simmons and Cllr Timoney were all asked for, and gave, their unequivocal personal guarantees that the two meetings would be held before the end of January 2019 and that there would be no further delays.
“On that basis, the #saveourtown committee will extend its support to Luton Borough Council until January 31 – but no further. There must not be any further delays.
“In the meantime, we urge all of our supporters to remember that the real problem in the progress of these plans remains Capital & Regional, who continue to try to block the Newlands Park project”.
Nigel will appear on BBC Three Counties radio Drive Time show tonight (December 6) from 3pm to discuss the announcement of the two planning committee dates.