Fans left in limbo after rival bidders block council’s Sixfields land sale to Northampton Town

Fears judicial review could keep East Stand work on hold for months

Thursday, 9th June 2022, 2:15 pm

Northampton Town says its fans have been left in limbo after rival bidders Cilldara blocked a land deal that would clear the way for work to finish the club’s eyesore East Stand.

The Warwickshire-based property developers lost out in a bidding war for around 20 acres of former landfill around Sixfields owned by West Northamptonshire Council and leased by the football club.

But Cilldara confirmed on Thursday (June 9) it has sought a judicial review into the lawfulness of a council cabinet decision in March to accept Cobblers’ £2.05 million bid over its own £3 million offer.

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Cobblers's deal to buy council-owned land around Sixfields is back in the melting pot

Now officials fear it could take months of legal wrangling before a civil court judge decides if the correct decision-making process was followed by the council cabinet.

A Cobblers spokesman said: “The club is aware that an application for a judicial review on the cabinet decision has been presented and, whilst the club understands this is a legal right, any further delay is obviously frustrating for us all.

“However, the action is not something that the club is directly involved with as it is between the council and the other party.

“We can do no more but sit and wait for this to be resolved.”

West Northamptonshire Council is expected to issue a statement later.

Councillors put on ice a £890,000 deal for the land agreed in November 2021 after Cilldara stepped in with an improved bid and amid concerns the club could be getting the land on the cheap, despite valuations by independent experts.

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.

Cilldara claimed their track record in cleaning up similar contaminated sites made it worth more to them. But the firm insists its final bid of £3million in March was not properly considered.

Cobblers eventually agreed to pay £2.05 million through a subsidiary company County Developments (Northampton) Limited after chairman Kelvin Thomas and business partner David Bower transferred its ownership to the football club.

Strings attached included CDNL’s pledge to complete the East Stand at Sixfields Stadium with 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.

What is a judicial review?

According to the Courts and Tribunils Judiciary website, a judicial review is a type of court proceeding in which a judge reviews the lawfulness of a decision or action made by a public body.

In other words, judicial reviews are a challenge to the way in which a decision has been made, rather than the rights and wrongs.

It is not really concerned with the conclusions of that process and whether those were ‘right’, as long as the right procedures have been followed. The court will not substitute what it thinks is the ‘correct’ decision.

This may mean that the public body will be able to make the same decision again, so long as it does so in a lawful way.

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