Plans to move Hitchin Town FC from Top Field ‘doesn’t have legs’, says club
PLANS to relocate Hitchin Town Football Club to an out-of-town location and develop their current home, Top Field, is unlikely to go ahead, says the club’s managing director.
Campaign group Save Top Field was launched earlier this month, with the second meeting held last night (Tuesday).
The committee group, made up of residents, local businesses and town centre groups, is concerned about proposals by the Hitchin Cow Commoners Trust and New Road (Clifton) Ltd to develop Top Field and build a new stadium on Green Belt land.
But the football club, who sent along representatives to the meeting, said that they were not concerned by the proposals as they did not think they were feasible.
Managing director Andy Melvin said: “To be honest, we are not taking it very seriously. If you look at North Herts District Council’s (NHDC) planning policy, building on Green Belt is a no-no. Building supermarkets on Top Field is a no-no.
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“We can’t see any point in getting too excited about it. This is pretty much, as far as we are concerned, an ambitious proposal that we don’t think has any legs.
“When we looked [at the plan], we thought, where’s the business plan, how’s it going to be put forward, where’s the consultation. We’ve not got too excited, because we don’t feel it’s been handled very professionally.”
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He added: “They won’t be able to do anything unless we are on board.”
The club was approached by the cow commoners 12 months ago with plans to potentially develop Top Field, and had to sign a confidentiality agreement.
Mr Melvin, who told the committee that the club had received interest before from people wanting to develop Top Field for commercial or residential use, also said that they were waiting to hear from the cow commoners about renewing their lease.
“We have applied to have our lease extended. They [the cow commoners] had until June 12 [to say no]. They never took that opportunity, so that means they have to renew our lease. If they wanted to redevelop, we would have heard from them,” he said.
He added: “We would like to buy Top Field. We have asked trustees on previous occasions. Then we could have got funding to improve the facilities.”
Committee members, who are in the process of drafting a petition to present to NHDC, said that they were pleased the football club were relaxed about the plans.
They also showed their support for the club, claiming it was good for the town.
But there were still concerns from many, including worries over new planning laws, that the plans could still go ahead.
Hitchin Forum member John Keene told Mr Melvin: “I don’t share your view on the possibility of Top Field being developed. There’s no real legal reason why it couldn’t be.”
He added: “The new proposed location [on the Green Belt land] could be tricky.”
Nafisa Sayany, also a Hitchin Forum member, said: “I think it’s very important that the people of Hitchin make their voices heard.”
The Hitchin Cow Commoners Trust has agreed to a meeting with the committee, and said it would answer questions.
The Save Top Field committee is in the process of collating a list of things they would like to ask.
If you have a question for the Hitchin Cow Commoners Trust, email firstname.lastname@example.org and the Comet will forward it on.