Hitchin Town FC pleased supermarket break clause not triggered – but Top Field battle goes on

Hitchin Town ladies football team captain Mel Blackmore and her son Lucas.

Hitchin Town ladies football team captain Mel Blackmore and her son Lucas. - Credit: Archant

The failure to exercise a break clause to evict Hitchin Town FC from its Top Field home has been welcomed, but club officials have warned a judicial review could still be required.

The Hitchin Cow Commoners Trust had negotiated a break clause in the club’s Top Field lease with property developer New Road (Clifton Ltd) regarding a supermarket development, but this expired last week without an application being submitted to North Herts District Council.

Hitchin Town chief executive Andy Melvin said: “Obviously it’s great news for the football club that Richard Daniels from New Road (Clifton) and the Cow Commoners have failed to exercise the break clause in our lease and therefore we cannot be evicted from Top Field.

“However, the option agreement over Top Field the trustees signed with New Road (Clifton) – which we have been advised is in breach of charity law – may require a judicial review to be set aside.

“We’re hopeful this will not be necessary and we can move on from this saga in a positive manner and engage in open discussions on how we can provide a community football club the town can be proud of.”

In October Hitchin MP Peter Lilley referred the Cow Commoners to the Charity Commission – the body tasked with overseeing charity trustees – because of concerns raised about the proposed plans for the football club’s home in Fishponds Road.

At the time, he said: “I cannot see how their plans to develop the Top Field site are compatible with their charitable aims.”

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However, a spokesman for the Charities Commission told the Comet that the organisation is waiting for more information from the MP.

He said: “MP Peter Lilley has not contacted us again since we responded to him on January 6.”

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