These programme notes were written by Hatters chairman David Wilkinson for Saturday's edition of This Is Our Town.
As most of you will already know on Wednesday evening the Luton Borough Council Planning Committee approved our planning application for a stadium and other mixed-use facilities at Power Court.
We are delighted that after such an extensive and thorough process the Committee have made such a momentous and historic decision for not only the club, but the town as a whole. This is without a doubt the most important result in all our living memories.
However, it is too early to start celebrating, because the away leg is yet to come in two weeks, and we also need a positive result then to make it all happen.
There are reasons why very large and experienced international developers have failed to find a viable way to make Power Court work for so long. It has been largely derelict for over a dozen years, is contaminated due to its former uses, has the River Lea culverted under it and has an electricity substation in the middle of it.
It is also a well-known fact that when an area is derelict or run-down it infects its surroundings and makes the whole area less attractive to investors, residents and businesses. There are many examples of stadia injecting life into formerly ignored spaces.
We believe that we have a unique opportunity, but it will be expensive – much more expensive than a regular site.
Before we get to even think about making it a place that people want to inhabit and visit, we must make it workable. We have to decontaminate the site, move the sub-station, which otherwise would be under the away end, and we want to bring the River Lea out from undercroft as a feature between us and St Mary's church. Our town was named after the river, so isn't it right that it should be part of the environment and a place for people to enjoy? If any of you know the recent developments at St Pancras Square or Granary Square in London, I can imagine people sitting on the banks of the river with views of the church, just as they do by the Grand Union Canal there. A vibrant welcoming place for residents, students and visitors to enjoy.
Previous owners have failed to develop the site, but they weren't Lutonians with a committed dream, and simply made decisions purely on commerciality. They were corporations, which had to be profit motivated before anything else. When Gary sold us the vision ten years ago this was, alongside success on the pitch, it!
The key that opens the door is Newlands Park. It is THE gateway to Luton. Millions of people travel down Airport Way from Junction 10 every month and this land and the airport is what they see. We believe that a high-quality mixed-use development will become a modern destination for people to work, shop, eat, watch a film or have fun. Why should we have to drive 25 miles to do that?
The profit from Newlands will be used to build the stadium and make our Club sustainable, but without it, it will be very difficult, if not impossible. It has taken four or five years to develop this plan and in that time the market has shifted somewhat, particularly with High Street retail.
Town centres are simply too heavily reliant on shopping for need with most specialist market commentators stating that they desperately need to diversify to places where people live, work and play, which is precisely what we are trying to deliver.
Gary, Mike and the development team have done a marvellous job to get us this far, so let us hope and pray that they get the opportunity to finish it for the benefit of us all.
A warm welcome today to Barry Fry, Mark Tyler and all the officials, players and supporters from Peterborough United.
The "Posh" had a storming start to the season and tore us apart for 20 minutes at London Road in August. Their progress has slowed somewhat, but they are a talented side and well in the playoff picture. We are well acquainted with their aggressively passionate manager, Steve Evans, having come up against him at both Crawley and Mansfield in the recent past, and we can be sure of a feisty encounter this afternoon.
It's never boring being a Luton Town fan, is it? But there are limits. Since the New Year it has been an emotional rollercoaster interspersed with some fantastic football matches and amazing support.
The number of you who travelled to Sheffield Wednesday and Sunderland so early in the year when money is tight was extraordinary, and I for one found myself welling up with pride and emotion. It seems that, perhaps because of the size of Kenilworth Road and the time we have recently spent in the lower leagues, other clubs do not realise how well supported we are, and ticket requests and attendances come as quite a shock. This is really important for our standing with the authorities and our reputation within football in general. Thank you all.
Gary very eloquently expressed our views about Nathan's rapid and unexpected departure in his Sheffield Wednesday notes. I would just like to wish him well and add my thanks for the work he did and the team he helped to create. However, the timing and manner of his departure sadly showed that he was not the man he professes to be.
I must add my thanks on behalf of the Board and investors to all operational staff and to Mick, the coaching staff and all the players for their words, actions and support at this testing time.
I will always be a Hatter, but today I'm a very proud Hatter.
Enjoy the game. Come On You Hatters!