Chief exec latest on Town's relocation plans
Good afternoon one and all to Kenilworth Road for today’s fascinating encounter versus Ronnie Moore’s Hartlepool United. In practical terms, the match we’re about to witness presents our last chance to make a claim to a promotion Play-Off spot whilst our opponents are equally in need of the points to help them avoid the dreaded drop into the new National League, as it will be called from next season.
Whatever the result, let’s all make the staff, officials and supporters who have made the 460-mile round trip warmly welcome and applaud their brave efforts to achieve safety since Ronnie took control.
Other than to say that we’ve been relatively pleased with our upturn in performances over the last couple of weeks even if the results haven’t been what we’d have wished for, I hope you can forgive me for avoiding the topic of football in these notes today. Whilst some of you will, no doubt, believe this sidestep is intentional or, indeed, whether my message today is designed to divert your attentions from the topic in general, I can absolutely assure you it isn’t.
The primary purpose of my notes in this edition – as my last of the season – is to provide a focus on the exciting developments relating to our new stadium.
Since my last notes published in the Exeter programme – when I very briefly hinted that progress had been made – I’m in a position today to be more specific, having passed another important project milestone in the last fortnight which allows me to further expand as to where we are in the process.
I’m sure you’re all eager to learn where our new home will be, what it’ll look like and when we’ll be moving. What I do need to explain is that due to the complexities of football stadium developments in general that the laborious nature of the project shouldn’t be underestimated.
Consequently, for reasons of commercial confidence and to protect the project’s probability of success, I apologise that I’m not in a position to expose the specific details of our preferred site just yet. Indeed, we are still taking the precaution of looking at how our objectives might work on more than one site while we plough through the more technical components of the qualification process. Your understanding on this is very much appreciated.
Over recent weeks, however, we have made some significant breakthroughs.
Firstly, we have obtained an encouraging support for our plans amongst the Labour Party group members at Luton Borough Council after a series of initial engagements. This important development has been achieved with an open-minded approach – from the leader and deputy through to other members and officers – coupled with a determination and desire that matched our own, to relocate the Club and help provide a more stable and ambitious long term future for professional football in the town.
Secondly, not only is the Council supportive of our plans to relocate – but we have been sufficiently encouraged to push ahead with the necessary enabling development plans to ensure that the stadium’s construction can be funded through building other facilities. Not only would this wide-ranging, mixed-use plan assist the Club, we believe it will also benefit the town greatly.
Accordingly, we have now formally entered the pre-application stage with the Council’s planning office, but regardless of how much work has been accomplished so far, the strict formalities of the planning process means we still have significant work to do before our application can be assessed appropriately by the planning officers.
Further to these developments, thanks to the astonishing generosity of those wonderful people closer to home, we are now in a position to buy land, secure the best possible professional advice from specialist consultants (to design and build the scheme) and to see the application process through to receipt of consent.
As you may expect, there are numerous items marked on our ‘to do list’ before we pass the next significant milestone.
We will need to restructure the company – both to ensure that we protect the Club during this historical phase and to allow for independent partnerships with compatible companies to help us achieve our goals.
Naturally, as a shareholder of the football club, Trust in Luton will be fully involved with these proceedings as they will be in other decisions affecting the Club. We met again this week to bring them fully up to speed with the latest developments.
Similarly, we intend to hold forums with the Trust and other supporters groups prior to submitting an application to consult on certain aspects of the stadium. For example, the working capacity of the stadium is likely to be governed by the shift in behaviour towards public transport. I’m confident some very constructive and helpful debates could be held about that.
We believe it is our duty, as a major traffic generator in Luton, to not only help to protect our town’s landscape and amenities but to improve them; not just on 23 matchdays but 365 days per year. With the cordial and progressive nature of the relationship between Luton Borough Council and Luton Town Football Club I am confident we can accomplish something that has been looming for almost 60 years.
Whatever the reasons are for Luton Town remaining at Kenilworth Road for 11 decades (without paying any disrespect to her beauty and charm) the backdrop is different now. The football club is looked upon as a valuable social, community and image asset to Luton by the Council and with a new-found partnership between the parties based upon mutual respect and honesty, I genuinely believe this time, we can achieve our goal.
So, what now?
By the time we kick off the new season we should be ready to announce the location and provide details of the broader enabling development. Meanwhile, we’ll continue to update and consult our supporters Trust and work tirelessly to make sure we get this done and dusted!
My final word goes out to the 860 or so supporters who were the envy of every Luton Town representative in the directors’ box on Tuesday night’s game at Dagenham. Your enthusiasm, passion, humour and sheer noise displayed throughout that game genuinely made each and every one of wish we were among you. Not only am I convinced that your performance inspired the 10 on the pitch but it is precisely that kind of faith and loyalty that motivates us to build the permanent foundations for a more successful and ambitious football club representing this wonderful town and county.
Now, with your vocal support, let’s give our very best to make it a rip-roaring end to the season!