THE Trust is becoming increasingly concerned that a future development deal on land behind the east stand at Sixfields could result in depriving Northampton Town Football Club (NTFC) of a valuable land asset.222
Indications given by Northampton Borough Council (NBC) following discussions suggest that NBC, in support of the development plans of County Developments Northampton Ltd (CDNL), would consider selling off to CDNL - owned by NTFC owner David Bower and chairman Kelvin Thomas - land to the east of the stadium.
Any sale to CDNL deprives NTFC of land intended to benefit the football club and Northampton’s wider sporting community.
Contrary to its stated position of just a few months ago, we understand that NBC, as part of the development proposal, has been discussing a land deal with CDNL prior to the completion of the east stand at Sixfields.
This has been taking place before securing the legal formality which would see leasehold land, mistakenly granted to CDNL, being returned to NTFC.
The club’s owners, having previously requested the boundary correction in order to complete the east stand, have refused to sign the amending document submitted by NBC to CDNL more than 12 months ago.
It appears the club’s owners are now making wider development a pre-condition for the completion of the east stand, although NBC insists that the east stand must be built first.
Given the existence of myriad companies linked to the football club and leasehold land around the stadium, we have seen no evidence of NBC incorporating legally-binding and enforceable commitments that would see the east stand completed prior to any wider development.
The Trust’s position remains that the east stand should be completed to a suitable standard without further delay.
We are disappointed that NTFC has not made their plans for the stand public and that there has been no movement on finishing the stand, which was the clear understanding when the club was taken over in November 2015.
At that time, Kelvin Thomas stated that £4 million had been set aside for investment and that the east stand would be completed, to include corporate boxes and possibly a conference centre. NBC inform us that no plans for the east stand have been shown to them by NTFC or discussed with them.
But the Trust will not accept completion of the east stand if the result is the loss of valuable leasehold land to NTFC, which sells short the aspiration for an ambitious and progressive football club.
We ask NBC to publicly re-state its commitment that 1) NTFC’s land be restored to it without any conflicting interest of CDNL on the title and 2) the east stand is finished to a suitable standard before 3) there is any discussion about land to the east of the stadium.
How will any proposed future land development deal at Sixfields benefit NTFC? Also, how will the development fit into the sports strategy ‘to protect the assets in Northampton for the people of the town’, as agreed by NBC’s cabinet in March this year?
We understand that NBC has a duty to the council taxpayers of Northampton to obtain best value from any development deals it does in the town’s name, but it also has a vested interest in protecting and promoting NTFC and the other major sports clubs which do so much to boost the profile of the town.