EXCLUSIVE: Borough council is 'holding up' Northampton Town's East stand development claims chairman in leaked letter

Kelvin Thomas, right, says the borough council is holding up a development of the Sixfields East Stand.
Kelvin Thomas, right, says the borough council is holding up a development of the Sixfields East Stand.

Cobblers chairman Kelvin Thomas has expressed his "utter frustration and disappointment" with Northampton Borough Council after claiming the authority has failed to respond to queries over the East Stand development for nine months.

The businessman, who took over in November 2015 when the club was in the grip of the missing £10.25m loan scandal, has sent an email to Northampton Borough Council claiming the Cobblers are being treated "unfairly" by the authority.

Kelvin Thomas.

Kelvin Thomas.

The football club now owns a series of leases that will enable it to develop the East Stand, which is currently filled with seats following the failed developed under the club's previous chairman.

But in an email seen by the Chron, Mr Thomas has claimed its bid to develop the stadium is being hampered by the council's inaction. In particular, he says he has received no plan to rectify issues with the leases to the land the East Stand sits on.

He said: "We have also worked tremendously hard in parallel to continue work on the East Stand, however, for months and months, we have repeatedly highlighted the areas of legitimate concern regarding the existing leases.

"These issues have also been accepted as issues by the council, but there has been no action or even a plan to rectify.

The East Stand was left as an empty shell after a failed development two years ago. it has since been filled with seating, but fans are anxious to see the stand fully renovated.

The East Stand was left as an empty shell after a failed development two years ago. it has since been filled with seating, but fans are anxious to see the stand fully renovated.

"Even with these issues outstanding we put seats back into the stand at our own cost and risk, which was important for the club and we want to continue this progress, but no sensible person would invest what is required into the East Stand or further development, without the lease position corrected and an indication of support."

In the letter, Mr Thomas says the club has now formed relationships with the university, local colleges and schools, plus the other professional sports clubs in Northampton. The chairman has also attracted investment from Chinese firm 5USport.

"We pay our bills, we pay our staff and we have restored the reputation of this Football Club both locally and in the football world," the letter continues.

"Crowds are well up on when we took over, we helped in securing promotion from League Two and now we find ourselves as an established League One Football Club, with ambitions to push on further."

He and the partners, he goes on to say, are ready to fund a full development of the East Stand without any funding from the council.

But he says the council has not managed to give any firm updates on the progress of the leases since a meeting with top officials on December 20, 2016.

Today, he says the club has received a "bland and non-committal email from the council", which he claims is a "holding response".

He added: "If the council feel that not responding for nine months then responding with a bland and non-committal email is “the normal way” then I fear any progress for anything in Northampton, and if after nine months your legal team are asking for suggestions how to solve the ridiculous situation that you created with these NBC leases, that is really a bit of a joke.

"I think it is safe to say that this lack of response is completely unacceptable for anyone, but for the Football Club who play such a positive part in the Community, it is just disrespectful."

"We get the feeling that the council does not want to do anything with the development of the Sixfields site, but surely you have a responsibility to tell us and the Northampton community if that is the case.

"I have copied the rest of the borough cabinet and will be forwarded to the Supporters Trust as I am totally and utterly frustrated by the Football Club’s treatment and just not sure where else to turn or what else to do.

"We are questioned almost every day, about what is happening with the East Stand and have tried to progress matters in the quiet, professional, behind the scenes way that we like to do business, while hoping and expecting progress at the council to be happening, but we are now seeing that we may never make progress as the council is going to sit there not making a decision or taking any action."

Mr Thomas finished the letter by saying: "Every time that we have an email, phone call or request for information ignored or receive a delayed non-commital response you are not just ignoring us, but you are ignoring every Northampton Town Football Club supporter, many of whom are residents of Northampton and people who you are elected to serve.

The borough council has been contacted for comment.