Petition to list Poppies’ old ground as community asset reaches 2,500 signatures

KTFC Community's original bid was turned down in June, with council officers feeling there was no evidence of community support.
KTFC Community's original bid was turned down in June, with council officers feeling there was no evidence of community support.

A petition to list Kettering Town’s old Rockingham Road ground as an asset of community value (ACV) has attracted 2,500 signatures.

KTFC Community’s original bid was turned down in June, with council officers feeling there was no evidence of community support.

Kettering Council then said they “couldn’t overturn the decision”.

But by attracting 2,500 signatures, the issue should now be debated by the council on September 28.

Campaigner Richard Atkinson says he hopes a fresh application will be made after the petition.

He said: “We’re delighted that we have reached the required amount of signatures to get the council to debate the issue.

“The aim of the petition is to try and keep the prospect of a return to Rockingham Road alive as the ground is still standing, and is yet to be sold off for developing.

“The petition is in no way saying that Rockingham Road is the only, or indeed the best option for the club.

“What all supporters of KTFC want is a stable and sustainable future for the club, after the traumas of the recent past.

“If any option for a long term home for the Poppies was likely to lead to further financial difficulties, then it would be folly to pursue it.

“Rockingham Road is however still seen as the spiritual home of the club by many, and a return there is obviously a romantic ideal judging by the number of signatures on the petition.

“Getting the ACV status would give KTFC Community a chance to bid on it, if it were sold, and would also provide a six month moratorium on any sale, giving any community group a short time to raise enough funds to put in a bid.

“The petition on its own will not secure the ACV status, but it does provide solid new evidence that could be used by KTFC Community to make a fresh application, and we are hopeful that this is what they will do.

“We are also preparing a document to present to the council which outlines what the petition is asking, what we would like Kettering Council to do in response to the petition, and details of why we think many of their published reasons for rejecting the initial application were wrong.”

The club have not played in the town since an ill-fated move to Nene Park in 2011, and currently play in Burton Latimer.

Just last week, the Poppies announced draft plans for a new 6,500-capacity stadium at their Latimer Park home.

While Mr Atkinson is excited by the plans, he says they must keep all options open.

He added: “The draft plans for the redevelopment of Latimer Park look amazing but are a very long way from becoming a reality, and until a concrete plan is agreed and in place for a permanent home for KTFC it is important to keep all options open and to keep looking for other options too.

“The club have always stated that they would prefer a return to the town and that Latimer Park would be used for training, the youth teams and community work.

“Most Poppies fans would favour a return to the town too, if it were possible, but whilst no option exists for that, Ritchie Jeune and the club have to make plans for staying at Latimer Park.

“Ritchie and the board are doing a fantastic job, and have our full support.

“They clearly have the best interests of the club and the community at heart, and we are confident that a long term future for the club will eventually be secured.

“We believe that Kettering Council should take a pro-active stance in helping promote one of Kettering’s biggest assets, to the benefit of not just KTFC supporters, but the community as a whole.

“It is our hope that the petition can help promote co-operation and collaboration between Kettering Council and KTFC that has not always been present in recent history.”

A Kettering Council spokesman said that while the petition had reached the required amount of signatures, they would only be able to confirm if it is going to full council when they have seen it and assessed whether it is asking the council to do something it can legally and constitutionally do.