Supporters’ groups come together to question Capital & Regional

Today, the Luton Town Supporters’ Trust and Loyal Luton Supporters’ Club have issued a joint press release in response to the ‘appalling’ interview Ken Ford, a senior executive of Capital & Regional, gave to BBC Three Counties Radio last week.

The statement is as follows:

Luton fans statement on “arrogant, out-of-touch and misleading” Mall owners 

Luton Town’s key supporter groups have accused Capital & Regional, owners of The Mall shopping centre, of being “arrogant, out-of touch with the local community, and misleading.”

The joint statement was issued in response to what the fans said was “a disgraceful” interview” on BBC 3CR in which Capital & Regional explained why it was objecting to the proposed new stadium development.

The interview with Ken Ford, a senior executive at Capital & Regional, made it clear that the company was ignoring overwhelming community support for a new stadium to be built for Luton Town Football Club, at the derelict Power Court site in Luton.

Mr. Ford dismissed the facts that 11,000 members of the community wrote personal emails and letters of support to Luton Borough Council and that the town’s two MPs support the plans too. The opinions of the council leaders are also on public record. There is a vast groundswell of public support, all wanting the new stadium to be built by the 2020 group, which owns LTFC.

Mr. Ford made a series of claims, including a warning that there were “social issues” associated with football fans that would hit sales at The Mall if a football stadium was built nearby.

He suggested that the proposed Newlands Park development at Junction 10 of the M1 to fund the stadium would damage Luton town centre. He also said that football stadiums should be built at the edge of towns, rather than town centres.

Mark Bradbury, Chairman of the Loyal Luton Supporters’ Club, and Tony Murray, Chairman of Luton Town Supporters’ Trust, said the interview was “appalling and disgraceful’. In a joint statement they continued:

“Capital & Regional is only interested in its own profits; not our town. The company is arrogant and completely out-of-touch with the local community it claims to support. Worse than this, the company’s comments are either carelessly -or deliberately- misleading. Mr. Ford obviously has no idea what the people of Luton want. Capital & Regional clearly has no interest in Luton’s wider interests and has sat back for nearly a decade and watched

the area around The Mall turn into a wasteland with no interest in developing it – until now. Their objection is a pure blocking manoeuvre to protect the status quo of eye sores and pound stores at the expense of a major and transformative regeneration project for our town.”

Mark Bradbury/ Loyal Luton Supporters’ Club

Tony Murray/ Luton Town Supporters’ Trust

 

The two groups gave this further reaction……

Joint statement by Loyal Luton Supporters’ Club and Luton Town Supporters’ Trust, in response to Capital & Regional’s objection to the new stadium development at Power Court. 

Loyal Luton Supporters’ Club and Luton Town Supporters’ Trust have been working together for several months with the joint objective of helping to secure the proposed new stadium development for Luton Town FC at Power Court.

We met with 2020 (owners of the club), local MPs, the council leaders and other stakeholders, while gaining constant feedback from our members, the wider supporter base and the local community about the plans.

There is overwhelming support for the stadium to be built at Power Court, with a sister project at Newlands Park to fund the development. Nearly 11,000 people wrote individual letters or emails of support to Luton Borough Council and our local MPs are in favour of the plans too. The opinions of the council leaders on the subject are on public record as well.

The single key objector to the plans has been Capital & Regional, owners of The Mall, which is a large property business with shares listed on the London and Johannesburg stock exchanges.

Recently we bought shares in C&R and attended the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting (their AGM) in London to ask them why a company which claims to operate “at the heart of the community” was objecting to a scheme which had the overwhelming support of the community.

C&R’s response was that the company has a scheme of its own to develop the area around The Mall which will create “a more vibrant town centre” and talks about the potential offered by a new masterplan for the town.

The company suggested that the proposed Newlands Park development would “destroy the town centre.”

The directors also questioned the viability of the stadium scheme and the clean-up costs of land at Power Court.

C&R had no clear answer to a question about why it was objecting to the plans at Newlands Park, but not the proposed retail developments at Houghton Regis. 

However, the C&R directors perhaps took some notice of our comments at their AGM and subsequently former director, Ken Ford, who still works for the company leading a number of key development initiatives, was interviewed on BBC 3CR.

Mr. Ford’s interview was greeted with incredulity by the local community and 3CR was inundated with texts and calls from angry listeners who could not believe what Mr. Ford was saying.

 

C&R‘s misleading claims

We have summarised (below) some of the key points and claims made by C&R and Mr. Ford and posed questions which we would like to see answered by C&R and Mr. Ford.

1. C&R claims that it operates “at the heart of the community”.

If so, why is it formally objecting to a scheme backed by 11,000 members of the community who wrote emails and letters of support to Luton Borough Council – and also supported by our local MPs, with council leaders’ opinions also on record?

2. C&R says that its own plan will create “a more vibrant” town centre than the 2020 plan.

So why is C&R only talking about this now, despite being in Luton since 2008?  Why has no planning application been lodged? Why should the people of Luton trust a company that has allowed the town centre to effectively shut down in the early evening and to create an environment of pound stores and surrounding eyesores?

3. C&R is dismissive of the football club’s supporter base, the popularity of the Power Court and Newlands Park plans, and the 11,000 people who wrote emails and letters to Luton Borough Council supporting them. Mr. Ford suggests that this is only 11,000 people out of a town of 200,000, an insignificant proportion.

Does he realise that 11,000 individual emails and letters is an almost certainly an unprecedented level of support for any planning application, any time, anywhere in the UK? Does he understand the vast groundswell of support in the town for Power Court and Newlands Park. Does he actually care what the people of Luton think about the 2020 plans?

4. C&R claim that the Newlands Park development will “destroy” the town centre by taking away sales. 

Why? The proposed retail at Newlands Park is different to and complementary to the Mall. It would attract more shoppers to Luton who currently head for other shopping centres. There is no plan to build any more pound stores there!

5. C&R say that Power Court will be a big building only used four to six hours a week, lie fallow the rest of the time and won’t add to the life of the town centre.

2020’s plans include a live music venue, restaurants, education facilities, open spaces, a hotel, homes and lots more to bring life to the town every day and evening. The Mall is a big building with none of these things, and effectively kills the town centre dead outside of opening hours.

6. C&R says that the football stadium should be built on a different site, possibly The Brache.

LTFC has been seeking a suitable site for a new stadium since the 1950’s. 2020 carried out an exhaustive study of possible sites and Power Court was the clear favourite. Has C&R checked whether a stadium could be built at the Brache? What is its plan? Is it costed? It’s on the airport flight path – is it even vaguely viable?

7. C&R is objecting to the Newlands Park development, but not to a proposed retail development at Houghton Regis.

Why? Does C&R have an interest in the Houghton Regis Development?

8. C&R says that it wants to create an “urban park” on the Power Court site. This conflicts with its view last year that the site could be used for housing/retail and commercial development.

Does C&R really have a credible plan? How does C&R intend to build an urban park when it does not own the Power Court site? What would C&R’s shareholders view be of buying land to build a park? Does it make any commercial sense or is it just a tactic to delay the stadium?

9. C&R says that football stadiums should be built on the edge of town.

Why? Newcastle, Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea – some of the best supported clubs in the country- take a different view. Out of town stadia do not work in the majority of cases.

10. C&R believes that football fans come with the baggage of “social issues.” We take it from this that he believes that they are hooligans.

Not so Mr. Ford. Where is the evidence that building a stadium on a derelict wasteland site will create “social issues” and not in fact enhance the lives of the whole community? Why does he consider football fans to be social pariahs, rather than a cross section of the community?

11. C&R says that retail sales in The Mall will fall on match days.

Why? We dispute this and believe that a major regeneration project will mean that people are more likely to come to Luton and shop at The Mall than now.

12. C&R says that the clean-up costs at Power Court make the site unviable.

How does C&R know this when 2020 has dug boreholes and tested the site and they have not. And – if was the case – how would C&R fund its plans for an urban park?

 

That’s a dozen questions we’d like answered – we have dozens more we want to ask, and we believe that the people of Luton deserve answers. Why ARE the Mall and C&R trying to prevent regeneration of the town? What are their REAL motives?

Mark Bradbury and the Loyal Luton Supporters’ Club Committee

Tony Murray and Luton Town Supporters’ Trust Board

 

Comments

  1. Malcolm Scott says:

    The area owned by C & R is currently looking run down in its own right. Why haven’t they improved this instead of criticising the new development proposed by 2020? They should concentrate on putting their own house in order. Having 10 to 15000 people in the immediate vicinity of The Mall is likely to increase its turnover rather than injure it. Their protestations are ill conceived and and have no bearing on the true potential outcome of an amazing facility for the town centre. Newlands Park is also a venture which will bring people to the town together with employment opportunities and is no more competition for the Mall than any of the other developments on the town periphery.

  2. Peter Atkinson says:

    I can understand that C & G might be somewhat ‘concerned’ that ‘new’ retail at Newlands Park MAY affect trade in the Mall, e.g John Lewis sell clothing like Debenhams and Marks and Spencer do! However, I think the above could work the ‘other’ way? If someone CANNOT find what they require at Newlands, then, they might pop along to The Mall?

    HOWEVER, I believe and think that Ford’s MAIN ISSUE is number 10 above ‘social issues’!

  3. Trevor Newman says:

    Inform Ken Ford and C&R shareholders, wherever they live, that they can build their wonderful urban park at Kenilworth Road when Luton Town vacate it. I am sure that the local community who live around that area will appreciate the lift it will give.

  4. R Almond says:

    The new stadium would do something to redress the balance after the heart was ripped out of the town when the ‘Arndale’, as we know, it was built. C&R are acting purely out of self-interest, i.e. there own profit margin. They do not respect the people of the town and do not therefore deserve the respect, or the custom, of Lutonians.
    The biggest improvement for Luton would be to demolish the Mall, build a proper town centre with a stadium fit for the 21st century.

  5. D Cripps says:

    This is a fiasco to ignore the wishes of 11,000 voters is suicide for C&R they have signed their death Knoll i’m afraid because of their shortsightedness that when foot traffic anywhere in the World produces sales.Anyone who has shares in a company that is ignorant of this should not entertain such stupidity as this.Luton Council I am sure understands that, and will act accordingly on this matter without further ado.The voters that voted 11,000 of them and many more that this a no brainer and a win win for luton Town so lets grow a pair what do you council members say??

  6. Kevan Peters says:

    I would also like to focus on C&Rs change of plan within the space of a few months….first there seemed to be Artists impressions of their “vision” of Power Court which from memory bore a striking resemblance to 20/20s plans.

    And now a complete turnaround to create an Urban park… So which is it to be Mr Ford?

    I suspect we know the answers Mr Ford…your timing on this speaks volumes….you say you want to work with the Club…how about starting at home and creating something on the “Berlin Wall” area. At Cheapside at the back of the Mall…including the Barbers lane area….plenty space there for more Pound Shops?

  7. Steve Townsend says:

    Well done to LTST & Loyal Luton – excellent response.

    There is something else that the people of Luton should be made aware of. This is an extract from C&R’s annual report…..

    “As we have successfully demonstrated, once assets have been repositioned we seek opportunities to recycle them if we believe capital can be more effectively employed on new investments or other asset management initiatives.” ….. According to their own website, since 2006 C&R have actually sold more than 40 UK shopping centres, malls and retail parks.

    In other words C&R could sell Luton Mall at any time and walk away from the town of Luton at a moment’s notice. So another question for Mr Ford. Will C&R still be in Luton in 20, 10 or even 2 years time, let alone the 132 years (and counting) that LTFC has been at the heart of this community?

  8. Andrew Sarkar says:

    Is Ford related to Malwinney? Another Scot who knows nothing about Our Team and our Town trying his best to ruin us.

  9. Roger King says:

    I’m writing as I feel I must concur with everything Mark Bradbury & Tony Murray have stated regarding the situation with Capital & Regional. The whole thing is absolutely appalling & Ken Ford & C. & R. have now shown their true colours when it comes to supporting the local community they purport to serve. Whereas 2020 Group have done nothing but think of Luton & our Football Club. I fully support everyone behind the development.

  10. Peter Atkinson says:

    I wonder what all the businesses in The Mall would want? Have C & R even asked them?

  11. Kevin Rouse says:

    Lets face it Capital and Regional do not understand the dynamics surrounding a football stadium. They have reverted to the tired old routine that football is something that is to be suspicious of and not in our back yard mentality.Capital and Regional executives including Ken Ford do not live in Luton and only visit The Mall 3 times a month! They, as an organisation, have preconceived ideas of what happens on a Saturday afternoon when millions of people of this country go and watch the nations number one sport. Have they all got “social issues” one would ask! It looks to me, and many others, who live and work in the town that C&R are opposing the development plans of 2020 not because they are “embedded” in the community and have its best interests at heart but are opposing purely for their own selfish reasons of profit. They have had 15 years or so to do something with Power Court yet did nothing blaming the banking crash, yet failed to explain what they were doing prior to the crash! When 2020 released their plans up pops Ken Ford with his back of a fag packet plans and then had the audacity to tell 2020 as the landowners of Power Court what he was going to build on their land! Out of touch, out of sync and out of ideas! How many more Pound stores does one town need. The arrogant Ken Ford and “that” interview showed how he and they really view the people of this town and that is to shut up and be grateful they are here running a monolith that shuts the centre of the town after 6.30 at night. Capital and Regional do not care for this town despite what they say at the end of the day the bottom line is a return to the shareholders which is what Ken Ford had stated on 3 Counties Radio. We have never been closer to a new stadium don’t let Ken Ford and Capital and Regional torpedo our hopes ambitions and dreams.

  12. The Mall is by far the most outdated and dilapidated shopping centre within 30 miles of Luton, much prefer Watford, Milton Keynes, Hemel Hempstead, Northampton centres to Luton. If C & R are concerned about loss of trade I would suggest that they look at the Mall and redevelope the interior to make it more customer friendly and bring it up to modern standards instead of leaving it in the 1980.s

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