Inquiry into Hitchin Town FC’s ground ownership

AN INQUIRY to be held into the ownership of the land which is occupied by a popular football club could pave the way for development, but there are assurances that the process is a positive thing for the fans.

The inquiry, which will be held next month, will determine whether the land where Hitchin Town Football Club’s Top Field is based should be removed from the Register of Commons under a new act. Currently, it is owned by Hitchin Cow Commoners, a group of trustees which leases the site to the club.

The application to deregister the land was submitted by Robin Furby on behalf of Dunmore Developments. If it is granted, it could pave the way for the site to be developed on.

Mr Furby promised that fans would not lose the football ground, but added that he did not yet know what developments would take place.

He told The Comet: “The reason for the application is because it was never common land and therefore it should be removed from the register. It was registered by mistake and until the recent Commons Registration Act, it was impossible to amend it.

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“I’ve no idea at the moment [about development]. We are only rectifying the mistake. Of course they [the fans] won’t lose their football ground. It would be quite impossible in view of current planning laws.”

Hitchin Town Football Club said that they would be launching an official statement in due course.

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Spokesman Neil Jensen added: “The club is relaxed about it. We see this as a positive step.”

Mr Furby’s application was submitted to Herts County Council (HCC) in January this year and was then referred to the planning inspectorate.

The inquiry will hear representations from those both for and against the deregistration. It will be headed by inspectorate Barney Grimshaw, as appointed by the secretary of state.

Felicity Hawksley, who used to live near the football ground, has friends and family who go to matches at Top Field. She said that she had some concerns with Mr Furby’s application.

She added: “If the land was indeed improperly registered, my questions are what are the commoners going to be compensated with.

“Hitchin Town FC is a well attended club, with many local supporters. The ground forms the focal point for some people’s weekend.

“Should the community know what the development plans are? I have concerns about how quiet the initial process was. I feel that once the land is deregistered and bought, if that were to be the case, there would be no platform for the local community to oppose the removal of the club or further development.”

At the time of going to press, the Cow Commoners had not commented on the application.

But earlier this year when the application was first made, a spokesman had said that no consent or consultation had been sought with the Trust.

The inquiry will be held at 10am on Wednesday, December 14, at Christchurch Methodist Church on Bedford Road. Members of the public are welcome to attend.

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