Poppies’ former Rockingham Road home bought by developer

The Poppies' old Rockingham Road stadium. NNL-170409-142535005
The Poppies' old Rockingham Road stadium. NNL-170409-142535005

Kettering Town FC’s former Rockingham Road home has been bought by a developer for a future housing project.

The stadium, which has sat empty since 2011, is owned by Ben Pickering Ltd.

Tonight (Wednesday) Kettering Town FC confirmed the stadium has been acquired by a developer.

A club statement said: “The club has been informed that Rockingham Road has been acquired by a developer for a future housing project.

“Whilst we are not at liberty to share exact details of the transaction we understand that the agreed valuation greatly exceeds its viable purchase price as the location of a football stadium.

“We have long said that decisions taken, with regards our final home, have to be taken with the long term future of the club at heart.

“Attempting to match or beat the unrealistic price tag put on Rockingham Road would have done nothing to secure the club’s future.

“We appreciate that there will be a lot of questions, many of which we will simply be unable to answer at this point in time, but would anticipate making further comments on this subject in the coming weeks and indeed months ahead.”

In the past few days, according to Companies House, a new director has been appointed at Ben Pickering Ltd.

The new director, John Harmon, is also a director at Seagrave Developments Ltd based in Wellingborough.

Seagrave Developments is the developer that is building bungalows on the site of the former Leather Craftsman pub.

The news comes just a week after Kettering Council allocated the Rockingham Road site for housing, with 88 houses earmarked for the site.

MP for Kettering Philip Hollobone said: “What a shame that Kettering’s famous football ground looks like it is set to be turned into housing.

“There have been so many famous and memorable matches at Rockingham Road.

“Sadly redevelopment has always been on the cards ever since the club itself sold the freehold back in the 1980s.

“Once any sports club ceases to own its own ground, it has far less security over its own future.”

Fans have opposed building houses on the site and twice bid to list the ground as a community asset, but those bids were rejected.

Independent councillor and Poppies campaigner Michael Brown said: “This is a total tragedy for the hopes, dreams and aspirations of not only local football fans, but any community-minded resident of the borough of Kettering.

“The good people of the borough will draw their own conclusions on the motives to Kettering Council’s decision to reject two community asset bids and the planning policy committee that is seeking to allocate houses on the site, which was supported by senior Conservative cabinet members in last week’s council vote.

“I will fight housing on this site until my heart bleeds dry on behalf of our community.”