The Trust has noted with interest the exchanges between leading Northampton Borough Council (NBC) members and Northampton Town Football Club (NTFC) in respect of the stalled east stand development.
And also the online comment on the Northampton Chronicle & Echo website which concludes that Cobblers fans just want to see the east stand finished.
The Trust has consistently maintained that there is nothing now to prevent the club’s owners David Bower (DB) and Kelvin Thomas (KT) completing the east stand in in line with the commitment they made to NBC - and NTFC supporters -when they acquired the club in November 2015.
We have repeatedly asked the club to share the plans for the east stand with all Cobblers fans but these, as yet, have not been made public.
Consider these timeline facts:-
NTFC is burdened with debts of more than £10 million and NBC agree to waive those debts and preserve league football in the town, on the clear understanding that the new owners, DB and KT, had the money to complete the east stand and would honour the transaction by doing so. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between NBC and NTFC was drawn up but is not legally binding.
NBC owns the freehold title to the stadium and also to the west stand car park, to the old athletics track area and to land behind the east stand stretching down to Ross Road.
The leasehold titles on this land, held by County Developments Northampton Ltd (CDNL), were subsequently acquired by DB and KT from the Liquidator for £170,000 against the wishes of NBC.
KT had long argued that NBC were stalling on sending across legal paperwork allowing the owners to sign off on a deed of surrender, which would have extinguished CDNL’s interest in land already leased to NTFC.
This is the land immediately behind the east stand to the middle of the old athletics track area. KT had said that this was the issue holding up the completion of the east stand.
After the disagreement was made public, NBC agreed and promptly sent KT and DB the required legal paperwork for approval and signature.
KT publicly stated that they would work with NBC to get the legal formalities completed as quickly as possible but, to this day, the deed of surrender has not been signed by the owners and no reason or explanation has been given to supporters.
The club’s latest accounts, up to 30 June 2018, show that the club has now in excess of £5 million in debt.
The Trust submits a Freedom of Information (FoI) request to NBC asking for disclosure of all documents relating to Sixfields development.
NBC responds to the FoI and at a meeting that month with NBC, the Borough Solicitor confirmed that KT was now seeking to tie in wider negotiations on land at Sixfields, unconnected with the boundary issue.
Subsequently, KT now states that, in light of the debt against NTFC, the owners are not prepared to load the club with further debt by completing the east stand without other guarantees on developing land behind the stand.
The Trust submits a second FoI request to NBC.
The Trust issues a statement summarising the findings of the second FoI. This showed that by the end of 2019, NBC had agreed to have freehold land at Sixfields revalued with a view to logistics units being built.
NBC deputy leader Cllr Phil Larratt publicly states that the club first and foremost needs to get the east stand completed.
NBC’s cabinet member for regeneration Cllr Tim Hadland says at the same NBC meeting that negotiations with the club are continuing but that nothing else would be sorted until the east stand is completed and a date set for its opening.
KT responds by saying that Cllrs Larratt and Hadland could not have been properly briefed and publishes a letter from NBC chief executive George Candler (GC), said to have been received by NTFC on 27 January 2020, on NTFC’s website.
In the letter, GC states that the preferred option would be for the club to purchase all the freehold land around the stadium from NBC.
GC sits on NBC’s Executive Programme Board (EPB) which discusses Sixfields development, as do Cllrs Larratt and Hadland.