‘Document is a smoking gun’ – Cow Commoners stay silent as Hitchin Town probe pressure mounts

Top Field

Top Field - Credit: Archant

Our home is safe, now let’s have some home truths – insiders at Hitchin Town FC celebrating their Top Field triumph have now called for a formal inquiry to be held into the deal which cast a shadow over their stadium.

The Fishponds Road site is held by the Hitchin Cow Commoners Trust, which agreed the deal with property developer Richard Daniels that could have seen the football club exiled at a new stadium on the outskirts of town.

The club never wanted the move, despite promises of improved facilities – but the town centre site was earmarked for development as a new supermarket.

The developer had to trigger a break clause in the club’s existing lease before the end of February if it had concrete plans for the project, but after that deadline passed without a plan being put on the table the club says it is now safe at Top Field for another 25 years.

But after years of uncertainty and concern over the future, the club now wants the Cow Commoners held to account.

You may also want to watch:

Documents seen by the Comet indicate the charity body failed to comply with a string of requirements when it agreed to the development deal.

The regulations say that they should have made clear from the start the exact nature of the new development, established what income could be expected and gone public with their plans before signing any agreement.

Most Read

According to Hitchin Town chief executive Andy Melvin, one document is a ‘smoking gun’ which has to be investigated by the authorities.

Despite repeated approaches to several Cow Commoners trustees over a number of days, none of them were prepared to comment on the club’s claims.

Another source who has examined the documents said: “They are extremely damning – including them showing the valuation of the New Road/Tesco property deal.

“We are urging the Charity Commission to commence a formal inquiry under the Charities Act into the conduct of the trustees – and we believe this should result in the agreement being ruled illegal, and the trustees being sacked for incompetence.

“The Charity Commission appear reluctant to act – if need be we will be seeking a judicial review of their failure to properly enquire into the affairs of the Cow Commoners.

“We have invited the trustees to allow full publication of the background documentation but they have refused so far.

“This is very shabby business – and we need the public to support us wholeheartedly in what can only be described as a crusade for justice.”

Hitchin & Harpenden MP Peter Lilley, who has been urged by constituents to use his influence to resolve the bitter dispute, said: “I have met representatives of the club, and it was suggested they have a face to face meeting with the Charity Commission to discuss the serious nature of these documents and their repercussions.”

A spokesman for the Charities Commission said: “The Commission has received a lot of correspondence from interested parties in connection with the Hitchin Cow Commoners Trust.

“We will then be making a decision, taking into account all the information and whether there are regulatory concerns for us to address.”

The Cow Commoners contacted by the Comet for a response declined to comment or were unavailable for comment.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter