Negotiations ‘ongoing’ over Top Field lease

Hitchin Town FC is in discussions over the lease

Hitchin Town FC is in discussions over the lease - Credit: Archant

A FOOTBALL club’s lease renewal has still not been agreed, after an offer from the landowners was turned down because it wanted to incorporate a breach clause.

Hitchin Town Football Club (HTFC) are still negotiating with the Cow Commoners Trust over the lease for Top Field, which is up next month.

The Trust, which is working on proposals with New Road (Clifton) Ltd to develop the land for retail and move the football club to St Ippolyts, offered to renew the lease for 14 years, but said it wanted to include a breach clause.

The clause would have allowed the Cow Commoners to terminate the lease for redevelopment.

Speaking at a Save Top Field committee meeting last night (Tuesday), HTFC managing director Andy Melvin said: “We refused that breach clause.

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“We are opposed to that and if need be, would go to High Court.”

But Mr Melvin, who said the club wanted to buy Top Field, added: “If the football club say we aren’t moving, and we don’t want to go, then nothing can be done.

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“They [the Cow Commoners] need our support.”

Meanwhile, screening opinions submitted by New Road to North Herts District Council have been withdrawn.

The screening opinions ask for advice over whether an environmental assessment is required.

But, while it may appear things have quietened down, the Comet understands the developer has enlisted the help of a consultant to provide a report which claims Hitchin is 30 per cent under what it needs to be in terms of food retail.

The Comet could not reach New Road at the time of going to press.

At Tuesday’s committee meeting, members said they would continue to support the club with its wish to stay at Top Field.

They all remain opposed to the possibility of moving the club, as well as building a Tesco store on the site.

Speaking afterwards, Cllr Judi Billing, who was at the meeting, said: “It’s good to be working closely with so many local organisations and Hitchin Town Football Club, all of us clearly determined to save Top Field for the town and for sporting use.

“We will fight off any and all attempts by developers, supermarket chains and the Cow Commoners Trust to destroy this much loved part of the town.”

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