Drama at Top Field as Hitchin Town Football Club fights to save future

PUBLISHED: 12:15 09 October 2014 | UPDATED: 12:20 09 October 2014

Andy Melvin owner of Hitchin Town FC

Andy Melvin owner of Hitchin Town FC

Archant

Hitchin Town played host to a vital off-the-field fixture last night as the club held a meeting on its future.

More than 200 people turned out for a meeting at Top Field, as the fight for Hitchin Town to remain at the ground continues.

The club’s trustees, the Cow Commoners, have proposed plans to sell the club’s home of nearly 150 years to a property developer – with the possibility that a supermarket chain such as Tesco could be built in its place.

The developer, New Road Clifton, would need to find an alternative site for the club if the move from Fishponds Road was to go ahead – with a site in Stevenage Road suggested.

To thunderous applause from the assembled standing-room only crowd, Canaries stalwart and ex-manager Andy Melvin blasted the Cow Commoners, who he says has signed a deal with New Road Clifton director Richard Daniels.

He said: “They have sold the club down the river – they have sold the town of Hitchin down the river. If a Tesco store is built here it will be the death of the town. If Hitchin Town is relocated to the Stevenage Road site it will be the death of the football club.

“It’s a disgrace the Cow Commoners say they don’t know what’s going on. We have never been involved in discussions about the new site. We were told they were relocating us the Stevenage Road site. We had no input. We were bullied into this.”

There was added drama earlier in the proceedings after Maggie Dyer, chairman of the Hitchin Cow Commoners Trust, announced she was present before making her way to the stage to speak.

She said: “The only way you can object to the plans is through council planning.

“Richard Daniels isn’t paying us. Richard Daniels is building a new site, and developers don’t do things for free.

“If the applications are turned down the development won’t go ahead. If it does Richard Daniels has to build a new site.

“Richard Daniels has offered a land swap – it is our duty to look at opportunities.”

At several points during her speech the crowd responded by cries of ‘disgrace’, and a short while afterwards she got up and left the building.

Rachel Burgin, Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Hitchin and Harpenden, also spoke at the meeting.

She said: “A point has been raised about Hitchin MP Peter Lilley not being interested in local issues but I want to assure you I am interested in local issues and am behind you every step of the way.”

Summing up the night’s events, Mr Melvin added: “Tonight has been important to find out what everyone wants – and I think from this evening’s attendance and reaction, not only the supporters of Hitchin Town Football Club but all Hitchin residents are very much on our side.

“I haven’t heard from one person who agrees with these plans – apart from the Cow Commoners.”

• For more reaction see next week’s Comet.

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