Memorial pitch plan could lose out to battlefield find

Gail Butcher stanidng on land by Eagle Drive where she would like to build a football pitch in memory of her son
Gail Butcher stanidng on land by Eagle Drive where she would like to build a football pitch in memory of her son

Pitch plan in memory of Northampton man could lose out to battlefield find

Gail Butcher launched a bid to create an all-weather pitch and clubhouse in the area around Delapre and Far Cotton in 2011 to stand as a lasting legacy for her son, former Kettering Town and Rushden & Diamonds player – and ex Northampton Town trainee – Richard Butcher, who died in his sleep aged 29.

I have fought and fought for this, only to be told they can’t do anything for me.

Gail Butcher

But four years since she and Northampton Borough Council drew up outline plans to use a flat section of land at Eagle Drive for the pitches, she has been told that it cannot be used, after tests revealed the oldest surviving cannonball had been found nearby.

The council said the cannonball find made it likely the land had played host to the 1460 Battle of Northampton and had a conservation plan for the site.

But Mrs Butcher said the Richard Butcher Memorial Trust has raised nearly £40,000 to build the pitches and felt the council had gone back on earlier promises.

She said: “I want to know why I can’t use that piece of land? Why, all of a sudden, is this land not an option?

“The cannonball was found years ago, so why suggest this land to me in the first place?

“I have fought and fought for this, only to be told they can’t do anything for me.”

At a meeting with the borough council on March 4, Mrs Butcher was offered two other plots of land; one ‘sloping’ patch to the north of Eagle Drive, and a smaller flood plain to the rear of the Marriott Hotel, also off Eagle Drive.

But she believed neither were appropriate within her budget. She said: “Even with funding I would spend all of that money just levelling the land out.”

Mrs Butcher said she would be willing to hold an archeological dig before any building work took place.

However, if the football pitch bid should fall through, she has vowed to use the raised funds for charitable purposes, and said she would consult with the public before allocating the money.

A spokesperson for Northampton Borough Council said: “We have always supported Mrs Butcher’s aspirations for a memorial for her son and we have tried to work with her to find a location. We have presented a number of options that would meet all of her requirements, each of which she has chosen to decline.

“Although we are sympathetic to her campaign, there is only so much land owned by the borough council and we cannot offer what is not available to us or suitable for development.”