Second bid to list Rockingham Road stadium as community asset rejected by Kettering Council

Kettering Town's former stadium on Rockingham Road

Kettering Town's former stadium on Rockingham Road

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A second bid to list the Poppies’ old Rockingham Road stadium as an asset of community value (ACV) has been rejected by Kettering Council.

The authority first rejected a bid to grant the stadium the status, which would have given fans an opportunity to match any potential bidders, earlier this year.

They said that there was no evidence of recent use as the ground was shut in 2011, and that there was no community support.

Poppies fans organised a march to deliver a petition, which attracted more than 4,000 signatures.

But their second bid was rejected by Kettering Council after a decision was released yesterday evening (Wednesday), citing the same reasons bar the lack of community support.

A decision notice read: “The council is not satisfied that the conditions of Section 88(1) of the Localism Act 2011 are met on the grounds that the nomination fails to provide any evidence to show that there is a current use of the land that furthers the local community’s social well-being or social interests.

“The nomination acknowledges that the football ground was closed in 2011 and there is no information provided to suggest that there is any current public use, or any other use, that furthers the social wellbeing or social interests of the local community.

“The nomination fails to provide any evidence that there is a realistic prospect of non-ancillary future use over the next five years in accordance with S88(2)(b).

“It is submitted by the land owner that the property has been marketed on the open market and was open to offers for use a stadium or alternative uses.

“KTFC Community submitted a bid which was significantly lower that the value of the property as a stadium or other development value.”

“While the submission of the petition shows clear evidence of community support there remains no significant evidence of the financial means by which that could achieved such that it would be realistic to think that there could be future use as a football ground.”

The Poppies currently play in Burton Latimer and unveiled plans to redevelop the stadium in August.

Many fans still harboured hopes of one day returning to their old stomping ground, where they played for more than 100 years.

Campaigner Richard Atkinson said the decision was completely against the spirit of the Localism Act.

He said: “The decision by KBC to reject the second ACV application is appalling, particularly in light of the fact that they have mainly used exactly the same reasons that they did to reject the first application.

“Both decisions are completely against the spirit of the Localism Act, and the reasons given for the rejection remain incorrect in the eyes of the organisers of the petition.

“That said, the one potential positive is that some weeks ago, Cllr Mark Rowley contacted me to ask if I would meet with him and members of the KBC cabinet to discuss the views and concerns of supporters to try and get a “resolution to the current situation”.

“I asked if I could gather a small group of supporters to attend the meeting, so that it wasn’t about what I thought, but could be a chance to give them a broader view.

“He has agreed to this, so a group of five supporters will be meeting with him on Monday, December 5.

“Whether this meeting is designed as pure lip service, or is a sign that the council really are willing to offer any kind of help to resolve the ground issues remains to be seen.”

Mr Atkinson added that the petition organisers will now take time to discuss their next move.

He said: “In the meantime, I will be discussing with the other petition organisers, and hopefully with the club, KTFC Community, and the Supporters Trust, what the next step should be.

“There are many possible ways forward - which include forgetting about the ACV listing entirely; asking for a judicial review into the decision; making a complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman; or even gathering new evidence for a 3rd application.

“We will await the outcome of the meeting December 5, and then decide on what to do next.

“The ground issue will not go away until a solution is found, and Kettering Council should be in no doubt that the supporters and members of the community will do everything in their power to help find that solution.”

Cllr Michael Brown (Ind, Brambleside), called on leader Russell Roberts to stand down over the decision.

He said: “I have never felt so ashamed to be a part of an organisation as I do now about Kettering Council.

“This is an epic failure to represent Kettering people by the leadership of the authority, who have once again chosen to delegate the decision to officers rather than taking the decision themselves as councillors.

“Cllr Roberts, leader of Kettering Council, should stand down over this epic shambles of a decision.

“The fight goes on to find a sports ground for Kettering borough and the campaign now gears up a notch.”