Poppies’ hopes to buy land for new home ground hit allotment covenant hurdle

A council’s land sale to provide a new home ground for Kettering Town Football Club will ultimately have to be decided by the Secretary of State.

Wednesday, 15th January 2020, 9:22 am
Updated Wednesday, 15th January 2020, 9:23 am
Kettering Town FC is currently entertaining fans from Latimer Park.

Because French's Field off Scott Road was originally designated as allotment land in 1960, Kettering Council will need the say-so of the Secretary of State for Local Government to sell the land to the football club.

The allotment covenant came to light in the conveyancing process and meant that agreement from the national allotment association and the Government is needed before the land changes hands.

Poppies chairman David Mahoney said the situation was a ‘curveball’ but that relations between the club, the council and the allotment association were ‘harmonious’.

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He said: “It is just something that is a curveball that has added to the process rather than jeopardise it.

“I’m impatient, so I would have liked the sale to have gone through yesterday, but we are working together with the council and the allotment association.

“When we told fans about the plan we said it would take from four to six years to come to being and so now a year on we say between three and five years to have the club back in Kettering.”

Mr Mahoney said the club did not have a back-up plan if this land sale fell through but that he did not see that happening. When the sale goes through the club will then put together full-scale plans and consult with the nearby community.

The football team has not played in its hometown since 2011 after it left its century-old Rockingham Road ground.

The National League North side now shares Burton Latimer’s Latimer Park with and fans are fundraising for a new stadium stand. So far £19,000 of the £25,000 total has been raised and if erected at Latimer Park it will then move to the new Kettering home ground when complete.

The news of the covenant has been made public after Cllr Michael Brown asked whether the Conservative-run authority was still committed to the sale of French's Field to the football club. The plans were first announced in September 2018 but little has been made public since.

A written response from the executive committee member Cllr Scott Edwards said: “Yes the council is committed to the sale. The sale has been complicated by the discover during the conveyancing process that the land has been designated as allotment land in 1960 and whilst never used as such, it nevertheless requires the agreement of the National Allotment Society who in turn rely on the advice of local societies as to the unmet demand for allotments The matter of local demand has been resolved, but the local societies have also asked for guarantees that the intended buildings on the site will not overshadow the existing allotments next door and draft covenants have been the subject of discussion with the football club and their lawyers.”

Cllr Brown, who asked the public question, said: “What I would like to see, and I believe I also speak on behalf of the community and the fans, is for the good and positive work to continue between the football club and the council. “

He also said he hoped Kettering MP Philip Hollobone would help lobby the Secretary of State to ensure the sale goes ahead before Kettering Council is disbanded next year and replaced with the North Northants unitary council.