Hitchin Town FC responds to public inquiry

A FOOTBALL club has said that an inquiry which will look into deregistering the land where its football club is based is “not an issue about ownership”.

An application was submitted by Robin Furby, on behalf of Dunmore Developments, to remove the land where Hitchin Town Football Club’s (HTFC) Top Field ground is based from the register of commons. There will now be an inquiry into considering the application next month.

Currently, the land is owned by Hitchin Cow Commoners, a group of trustees which leases the site to the club.

In a statement, the club said: “Hitchin Town Football Club would like to make it clear that the application to deregister Top Field is not an issue about the ownership of the site.

“The freehold of Top field is owned by The Hitchin Cow Common Trust as it has been for many years. The trust lease Top Field to Hitchin Town FC. These facts are not in issue, and the public inquiry will not be looking at ownership at all.”

The Fishponds Road club was registered as a common by the Hitchin Cow Common trustees in August 1967. Subsequently, the trust realised the registration was a mistake.

In 1999, it prompted Norman Hyde, then clerk to the trustees, to state there was an error.

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The club’s spokesman added: “Mr Hyde was correct, because the 1816 Tithe Map of Hitchin shows that, while Butts Close was a common, Top Field which is immediately to the north was not.

“There was a court judgement in 2001 which concluded that ‘the evidence is that no one within living memory has sought to exercise the right of cow common over the land’.

“The application now under consideration is simply to correct the 1967 error, which for the first time, is made possible by the Commons Registration Act 2006.

“The club would like to see better facilities at Top Field. Any improved facilities would require both the consent of the Trustees of the Cow Common and the grant of planning permission. Members of the public would be consulted and allowed their say at the time of any application.”

The inquiry will be held at Christchurch Methodist Church, in Bedford Road, Hitchin, on Wednesday, December 14 at 10am.