Hitchin Cow Commoners Trust: Football club staying at Top Field could prove ‘great difficulty’
TO CONTINUE to keep Hitchin Town Football Club at Top Field could prove difficult because it may be in breach of law, it was claimed at a meeting this week.
The Hitchin Cow Commoners Trust met with campaign group Save Top Field on Tuesday evening, giving a presentation and answering questions on the proposals for Top Field.
At that meeting, the trust said that because Hitchin Town Football Club was owned by a private company - managing director Andy Melvin’s Celeriter - keeping the club at the ground could be difficult.
The trust said that it was constrained by certain rules under the Charities Commission and Charities Act, and that the land was meant to be used by a not-for-profit company, not a private one as it is currently.
Peter Cranfield, the trust’s treasurer, said: “We’re getting expert opinion on our legal position on this conflict - we are not doing anything underhand.
“Selling Top Field releases a huge amount of money. We could have great difficulty if Celeriter remains there, because we wouldn’t be fulfilling our objectives.
“When the lease comes to an end, we have got to ensure that the land is used in furtherance of the trust’s objectives.”
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The plans, put forward by New Road (Clifton) Ltd, include selling Top Field for residential or commercial development, and building a new facility for the club and other sporting entities on Green Belt land in St Ippolyts.
Dr Cranfield, who told the committee that in 2002 the cow commoners had been approached by Celeriter which wanted to buy Top Field for �500,000, said that it was up to residents to decide if they agreed with these plans.
“The people of Hitchin have got to make their minds up,” he said.
“It’s not for the trust to decide whether we think it’s a good idea to have housing there or shops or a factory. Our job is to follow the interests of the trust. My own personal opinion bears nothing at all - it is my expertise and knowledge.”
He added: “We recognise the importance that we provide you with all the correct information, that’s the only way that things will go forward. It’s absolutely fantastic you have organisations like this and are having meetings like this because it’s really part of the process.”
The trust, which will have paid off its debts by next year, said it was answerable to the Charities Commission.
It said it could not upgrade Top Field because it was not allowed to trade, and that there was no money in any case.
But it did say that a new sports facility must be completed before Top Field is developed, although Dr Cranfield added that what happens to Top Field if and when the new facility was completed would not be the trust’s concern.