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Council vows to defend legal challenge over grant of permission for mixed-use scheme including football stadium

Luton Borough Council has said it will “vigorously defend” a legal challenge brought by a property investment company over the local authority’s decision to grant planning permission for a mixed-use gateway scheme that would help delivery of a new 23,000-seater stadium for Luton Town Football Club.

The council’s development control committee resolved on 11 March 2019 to grant planning permission for the Newlands Park planning application.

It was then referred to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government who chose not to “call in” the application.

The council issued the final decision following the signing of the S106 legal agreement on 24 September 2019.

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Lawyers representing Capital & Regional then notified the council of its intention to launch a legal challenge into the decision.

The council said it had responded in a letter “firmly rebutting the grounds of challenge with the reasons why”.

Capital & Regional have now formally launched their challenge through the courts. The council said this was done within the permitted timeline following its decision being published.

In a statement the council said: “We remain entirely confident that the decision-making process contained no legal flaws, which is a view supported by our legal representatives who have been scrutinising the grounds for challenge put forward.

“We are both surprised and disappointed that this action is being taken, and concerned about the potential cost to Luton taxpayers and the inevitable delays in this beneficial development coming forward.

“It is right that we vigorously defend the decision and we intend to do so.”

Capital and Regional, the owner of The Mall shopping centre in Luton, has been approached for comment.

Luton Town Football Club and 2020 Developments, which is behind the dual-site regeneration proposal, expressed “extreme disappointment” at the judicial review challenge.

“The claim by Capital & Regional does not come as a surprise given their track record of opposing our plans and, we believe, their claims have no merit whatsoever. Indeed, it has always been our view that Capital & Regional have opposed and continue to oppose our plans on commercial factors rather than factors of public interest,” they said.

“Naturally, their decision to make such a claim will lead to delays to the regeneration of Luton and will not only incur significant costs to our own business affecting our operational expenditure but also to Luton Council, which will be funded by the local taxpayer.”

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