Kettering Council will hear Poppies’ Rockingham Road petition – but will not debate it

Kettering Town's former stadium on Rockingham Road. ENGNNL00120120415152742
Kettering Town's former stadium on Rockingham Road. ENGNNL00120120415152742
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Kettering Council will hear a petition over its decision not to list the Poppies’ old Rockingham Road ground as a community asset - but says it will not debate the issue.

The rejection of KTFC Community’s bid earlier this year was met was widespread disapproval from people in the borough.

Fans set up a petition against the decision, easily surpassing the 2,500 signatures needed to trigger a full council debate.

But Sue Lyons, head of democratic and legal services at the council, says while it will be heard at a meeting on September 28 it will not be discussed.

In a letter to petition organiser Richard Atkinson, seen by the Northants Telegraph, she said: “Under the Petition Scheme you will be able to present the petition to the meeting of full council on September 28, 2016, and speak regarding the petition for up to five minutes.

“Once you have finished addressing the council, the mayor will accept the petition.

“He will then advise the councillors present that there will be no debate or discussion of the item at this meeting because, as I have explained above, decisions on ACV listings are not matters for full council to decide.

“The fact that the petition may be used as part of a new submission also speaks to why the council meeting cannot discuss it further – if a new application is forthcoming it must be determined in accordance with the process adopted by the council.”

But Mr Atkinson says this is not laid out under petition procedures, and that the council is not following its own rules.

He also says he has received messages of support from a number of councillors about the decision not to debate the issue.

He said: “We have made a complaint to the council, as this is against the council procedure rules.

“We are currently awaiting a response to our complaint, and if we do not receive a response, or are still unhappy with the position taken by the council, we will take our complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman.

“It was our hope that the petition could help create a new atmosphere of co-operation and collaboration between Kettering Council and Kettering Town Football Club, which has not always been evident in the past.

“In light of the council’s current stance regarding the debate, we do however recognise that this now seems unlikely.

“While achieving ACV status for Rockingham Road will not lead to an instant return there, it may just help to keep one option open for the club to achieve its stated aim of a return to Kettering.

“Until a firm option for creating a sustainable long-term future for the club is confirmed, we believe that all options should be kept open and fully explored.”

MP for Kettering Philip Hollobone said he was impressed by the support the petition had received.

He said: “I know there is a lot of local support for getting the Poppies back to Rockingham Road and it is impressive that so many names have been collected on the petition to be presented to the council.

“Unfortunately neither the club itself nor Kettering Council owns the land on which the football stadium is built.

“Using its powers as the local planning authority Kettering Council has the ability to list the land on which the stadium is built as an ‘asset of community value’ if certain planning conditions are met.

“I understand KTFC is submitting a second application to be granted such status, but even if successful this status would not give the club an automatic right to buy the ground or even to have first refusal when it comes on the market.”

Poppies fans will march from Rockingham Road at 6pm on September 28 to the council offices to present the petition, which currently stands at more than 3,800 signatures.