Council leader answers Cobblers fans’ questions over Sixfields redevelopment delays
Northampton Borough Council leader Jonathan Nunn says he has not seen any plans for the wider redevelopment of Sixfields – but told Cobblers supporters that he is as ‘frustrated’ as them at delays.
The Conservative leader told fans that the council wanted the East Stand built before discussions about any wider development behind the stadium can take place.
He said: “I haven’t seen any plans [for wider development]. That’s not to say that plans aren’t knocking about. I have made a point about not being involved in that.”
Councillor Nunn also confirmed that he had yet to see any detailed plans of a completed East Stand, which has been unfinished since building work started in 2014 and was then halted.
He also told fans at the supporters’ trust arranged meeting that the council had attempted to buy back leases surrounding the East Stand from a company that has been owned by both the football club’s former owners and its current owners.
County Developments Northampton Ltd (CDNL) was previously owned by former NTFC owners David and Tony Cardoza. The company was given too much land by the council in 2013 in an ‘oversight’ concerning leases with the redevelopment.
But since then, current Cobblers chairman Kelvin Thomas and his business partner David Bower purchased the shareholding of the company from liquidators Mazars and then put it through a company voluntary arrangement (CVA), despite protests from the council.
In June last year, it was agreed by the council’s cabinet for CDNL to surrender its lease on the land. This was supposed to fasttrack the redevelopment of the East Stand, but since then Councillor Nunn and the football club’s ownership have given conflicting statements as to which party is responsible for the next move.
Responding to questions from the club’s supporters at Kingsley Park WMC on Thursday (July 25), Councillor Nunn said: “It was the council’s ambition that CDNL was closed and the leases were returned to us. We even tried to buy back the leases, and that would have been our preference.”
A November 2015 report by then borough council chief executive David Kennedy, supporting a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the council and new owners Mr Thomas and Mr Bower, stated that the council being ‘unable to secure the leases from the liquidator of CDNL’ and the possibility of a ‘third party buying CDNL from the liquidator’ were ‘significant risks’ to the council. Mr Thomas and Mr Bower later became directors of CDNL on April 21, 2017.
The MOU, although not legally binding, also stated that the football club would surrender an area of land to the east of the stadium to the council, to facilitate NBC’s development of the site. This was understood to be one of the methods the council was to use to recoup some of the £10.25million loan it had given the football club.
Asked by one supporter if he knew the value of the land behind the East Stand, Councillor Nunn said he didn’t know a specific figure but did say it would cost ‘millions and millions’ to remediate the land in order for it to be built on.