Approval for plans to demolish and redevelop the Nene Park stadium could allow the county’s FA to move to a new site.
An outline planning application for demolition of the stadium where Rushden and Diamonds FC used to play and its associated infrastructure as well as the erection of a new retail and leisure development is likely to be considered by East Northants Council’s planning management committee later this month.
If the plans are approved, there will be money for Northamptonshire FA as part of the Section 106 planning agreement to put towards replacement pitches.
A spokesman for East Northants Council said: “Subject to planning permission being granted, the Section 106 agreement will include a requirement already agreed by the applicant, to put £200,000 towards replacement pitches at a site near Moulton College in Higham Ferrers.
“The land is owned by the Duchy of Lancaster and they have agreed Heads of Terms with Northants FA for a new football development centre on the site.”
The Northants Telegraph spoke to Bob Cotter, chairman of the Northamptonshire FA, and he said they could be re-locating from Northampton to Higham Ferrers if the plans are approved.
Mr Cotter said: “What Northamptonshire FA is doing is we are going to establish a football development centre.
“Northamptonshire FA will be relocating offices from Northampton to Higham Ferrers.
“Section 106 money is related to it so if planning permission is not given, then this will be put on the back burner until we can generate Section 106 money.
“The reason is that the planning restrictions relate to loss of football pitches, they have to be replaced on a nearby site.
“We have negotiated a site with the Duchy of Lancaster.
“It will be a three pitch development centre for Northamptonshire, it will be a three pitch centre and eventually we would like one of those pitches to be a 3G one.”
While the FA has wanted to move for some years, they say they have been waiting for the right opportunity.
Mr Cotter said: “We have been looking to relocate for about 10 years, possibly even longer.
“We have looked at a number of sites across the county and we have always looked to relocate to a central part of Northamptonshire.”
Mr Cotter said they are ‘fairly confident’ that the redevelopment plans for Nene Park will be approved.
However, he also revealed that while they didn’t want to lose Nene Park, it was not something they could afford to buy themselves.
Mr Cotter added: “We know there’s a shortage of pitches in the Higham Ferrers area so this fulfils a need for us and for Higham Ferrers and Rushden.
“It’s an exciting development for us and hopefully we will be there for many years to come.”
Mr Cotter said the centre will be available for local football clubs and local organisations.
Applicant Conalgen Enterprises SA has applied for demolition of the existing football stadium and associated infrastructure and erection of new retail and leisure development including retail, cinema, hotel, restaurants and new community football facility along with access and parking.
A number of objections have been made about the plans, including from Irthlingborough Town Council and AFC Rushden and Diamonds.
To see how the Northants Telegraph reported on the Nene Park plans back in January, click here