Council faces legal battle with rival bidders over sale of Sixfields land to Northampton Town Football Club

Private developers give notice of intention to apply for judicial review into decision

By Kevin Nicholls
Wednesday, 23rd March 2022, 2:38 pm
Updated Wednesday, 23rd March 2022, 2:40 pm

Plans to sell council land to Northampton Town Football Club could be scuppered by a potentially costly legal row with rival bidders.

Private developers Cilldara Group have written to West Northamptonshire Council giving notice of their intention to apply for a judicial review into the decision.

The move comes more than two weeks after cabinet members accepted council officers' recommendations to accept a £2 million offer from County Developments (Northampton) Ltd — which is owned by Northampton Town — for up to 22 acres of toxic land behind Sixfields Stadium.

Council plans to sell a pocket of land behind Sixfields appears to be heading for the courts

Strings attached to the contracts would ensure Cobblers owners Kelvin Thomas and David Bower finished work on the eyesore East Stand, a legacy of a botched loan from the former Northampton Borough Council nearly ten years ago.

A council statement issued on Wednesday (March 23) said: "We received yesterday a letter from Cilldara Group advising us of their intention to take the Sixfields land sale decision to a judicial review.

"At this stage they have sent a letter setting out their intention to send a formal letter which is promised later this week which will set out the grounds of their claim.

"When we have this, we will be in a position consider responding to the points they raise.

"A judicial review is not a review of the merits of the decision, but rather the process followed. Throughout the process we have obtained legal advice from a QC on the approach we have taken and were aware of the contentiousness of the decision and therefore likelihood of challenge."

Thomas and Cobblers chief executive James Whiting plan to hold a consultation evening for fans over their plans for Sixfields on Wednesday (March 30)

A £890,000 deal between club and council was originally set to be done before Christmas based on a valuation by independent surveyors which, they said, reflected the amount of remedial work which would be needed to bring the land up to standard for development.

That was put on ice for two months after Warwickshire-based Cilldara came in with a higher bid, which it later increased to £2.05 million.

Cilldara made another bid of £3 million hours before the vital cabinet meeting sealed the deal although this was not put before the cabinet.

Judicial review is a type of court proceeding in which a judge reviews the lawfulness of a decision or action made by a public body.

In other words, judicial reviews are a challenge to the way in which a decision has been made, rather than the rights and wrongs of the conclusion reached.

Courts do not have the power to impose what it thinks is the ‘correct’ decision.