Cobblers deal: Supporters Trust makes shock £3m bid for Sixfields land
Another twist in the ongoing Sixfields saga
By Natalie Bloomer
West Northamptonshire Council has received a new rival bid for land at Sixfields which is at the centre of a contentious deal between the council and the owners of Northampton Town Football Club.
NN Journal understands the football club’s supporters trust wrote to the council on Friday offering £3m for the land. No further details of the offer have yet been disclosed.
The same day Tory councillor Paul Clark sent a scathing email to Cllr Nunn raising concerns about the deal with the football club’s owners. The email was also sent to all members of the Conservative group.
The land behind the East Stand of the stadium is owned by the council and parts of it are leased by the football club. Earlier this year the club’s owners agreed a deal with WNC to purchase the land but ended up in a bidding war with rival company Cilldara.
Despite Cilldara offering £3m for the land, the council decided to accept a £2m bid from CDNL (a subsidiary of Northampton Town Football Club), in part because of complexities with the lease. This was an increase from an original £890k offer made by CDNL but meant that a guarantee for works to the East Stand to be completed before the purchase could go ahead was dropped by the club’s owners.
This has caused much concern with the Supporters Trust as work on the East Stand came to a halt seven years ago after the club was plunged into crisis amid the scandal of the missing £10.25m loan from the borough council and subsequent police investigation.
After the deal with CDNL was agreed Cilldara launched legal proceedings seeking a judicial review of the decision made by the council claiming that it was unlawful.
In a letter to Cllr Nunn earlier this month the supporter’s trust asked about what they called a U-turn from the council over its ‘no stand no land’ policy. It said:
“Once again I invite the Council to demonstrate that the concerns of the Trust board are unfounded. Please explain why silence continues to be observed on this point. I would add that this is a matter of significant public interest and importance…
“What the Trust board requires to be put in place is an unconditional irrevocable personal guarantee from the club’s present owners that the East Stand will be finished to an agreed specification and an unequivocal public commitment from the council to enforce that guarantee in the event of default.”
In response Cllr Nunn said:
“On the ‘no stand, no land’ point, it is correct, and was noted at the meeting, that the council has moved on this point as the process of negotiation and offers developed. It was not a change that the council sought, but was a change in the terms of the higher CDNL offer…In summary, if the stand was not completed in five years the council would have the right to re-acquire the running track site (only) for £1. That was a necessary counterpoint to the increase in the sum offered to £2.05 million.
“The requirements for the stand to be completed are reflected in the Heads of Terms appended to the Report, and the further verbal assurances from Bower and Thomas mentioned in 5.12 of the Report and addressed in 6.20. The legal drafting of these provisions has not yet taken place, so there is nothing to disclose in relation to it at this time.”
This has prompted more questions from Nunn’s own party. In the email sent to him on Friday ahead of a group meeting the following day (seen by NN Journal) Cllr Clark asked seven detailed questions about the deal, how decisions were taken and about rumoured meetings between leading Conservative Cllr Suresh Patel and the club’s owners.
The email was signed off as being from Cllr Clark and “several other extremely concerned councillors”. NN Journal understands there are between 10 - 15 councillors within the group who are troubled by the deal.
Party sources say Cllr Nunn addressed the email at the group meeting but said he would reply in full to Cllr Clark directly.
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