Council 'not surprised' as judge sends Sixfields land deal with Northampton Town to High Court

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Rival bidders win right to a judicial review into West Northamptonshire selling former landfill to football club

Council chiefs say they are “not surprised” at a High Court decision to grant a judicial review into selling land at Sixfields to a company owned by Northampton Town Football Club.

A judge ruled on Monday (November 7) that West Northamptonshire’s £2 million deal for around 21 acres of contaminated land adjacent to the club’s ground needed further scrutiny. Rival bidders Cilldara Holdings Ltd claimed its £3 million offer had not been properly considered by the council and would have been a better deal for council tax payers.

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A judicial review looks at whether the decision was made lawfully and if not, the original decision is quashed. West Northamptonshire cabinet member for finance, Councillory Malcolm Longley, said: “We have been informed that the judicial review has been granted leave to proceed. This does not mean the judicial review has been successful but does mean that the case can now go forward to a hearing. Given the complexity of this issue, we’re not surprised by the judge’s decision.”

Cobblers owners say a deal to buy land around Sixfields includes a pledge to complete the eyesore East StandCobblers owners say a deal to buy land around Sixfields includes a pledge to complete the eyesore East Stand
Cobblers owners say a deal to buy land around Sixfields includes a pledge to complete the eyesore East Stand

Cilldara tabled rival bids after the council announced it agreed an £890,000 deal for the land with County Developments (Northampton), a subsidiary of the club, back in December 2021. Large chunks of the land being sold are already leased to County Developments (Northampton), which the council claimed would make selling to a third party a legal minefield while club owners Kelvin Thomas and David Bower promised to finally finish Sixfields’ eyesore East Stand as part of the deal.

Cilldara, which specialises in cleaning up contaminated land, launched an application for a judicial review in March claiming the deal between the council and the club did not give best value for taxpayers.

It added there were “fundamental question” over the council accepting an offer worth £98,086 per acre as opposed to Cilldara’s £173,510 per acre.

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Since then, the club's Supporters Trust board applied for legal protection for a former running track behind the East Stand to stop it being built on and then made its own £3 million bid to buy the land.

Cllr Longley added: “We are currently awaiting further information which would allow us to give the Supporters Trust bid full consideration.”

A statement from the club on Tuesday (November 8) said: “It is frustrating this is not within the club’s control and this certainly delays progress on the East Stand until the matter is resolved.”

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Councillors put on ice the £890,000 deal in December after Cilldara stepped in with its improved bid and amid concerns the club could be getting the land on the cheap, despite valuations by independent experts.

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Lambert Smith Hampton said the amount of remedial work required on the toxic former landfill site forced down the market value to around £820,000 but Cilldara claimed its track record in cleaning up similar sites made it worth more.

Strings attached included a buy-back agreement if work is not finished within five years, plus a ‘sell-on clause’ if any of the untreated land is sold at a profit.