What a relief

WITH work having started in earnest on the controversial Luton-Dunstable Busway, particularly near Luton Town Football Club’s ground, it’s an appropriate time to go back more than 50 years for the photo above.

The workmen hard at it next to what was then a railway line, but is now the Hatters Way relief road, were pictured in August 1955.

Luton Town had just gained promotion to Division One, which was then English football’s top flight, and the directors were faced with the problem of how to accommodate bigger crowds.

Various possibilities, including an extension to the Kenilworth Road terrace and a double-decker stand on the Bobbers Stand side of the stadium, were considered and rejected.

The club had bought a strip of land at the back of the Main Stand from British Railways several months earlier with the intention of either replacing, extending or rebuilding the stand, which is in the top right of the picture and was then more than 30 years old.

A brand new double-decker cantilever stand would have increased the seating capacity by 1,000 and provided another 7,000 standing places.

The estimated cost of the work was £68,000, but this figure rose to £101,000 and the club decided not to proceed, especially when it was discovered that because of a chronic steel shortage, work could not start for two years.

Instead the Hatters’ board pressed on with an extension to the Oak Road end to increase capacity there by 3,500.

As the club owned all the houses in Oak Road which backed on to the terrace, the directors thought they could push through an agreement with the tenants to seize half their back gardens in exchange for a small rent reduction. But the tenants were furious and took legal advice when the club served them notice to quit.

Following negotiations, they were each awarded £63 compensation for loss of gardens plus a substantial rent reduction.

The photo top right shows the Oak Road end shortly before work started in April 1956 and the picture below that is of the extended terrace as it neared completion for the start of the 1956/57 season.

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