Thomas says East Stand project moving forward, but 'independent process' can't be rushed

Cobblers chairman Kelvin Thomas says he can't put any timeframe on when the new east stand at the PTS Academy Stadium will be completed.

Saturday, 26th June 2021, 11:23 am
Updated Saturday, 26th June 2021, 11:26 am
CGI of the how the back of the redeveloped east stand may look
CGI of the how the back of the redeveloped east stand may look

But he insists club is 'ready to go' with getting things finished, as soon as a full 'independent process' is carried out by the West Northamptonshire Council.

The club unveiled detailed plans for the redevelopment at an open session for suppporters on Friday afternoon, with new computer generated images of how the new stand will look made public for the first time.

Hospitality boxes, commercial areas, a new viewing platform for disabled supporters, bars, conference rooms, a possible fan zone and an increased capacity are all part of those plans.

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Details were also made available of the club's hopes for the future development of the land it owns behind the east stand, and how any money raised from that will be ploughed back into the club.

But that is something for years down the line, with Thomas confirming the club and council have already agreed there will be no development of any land until the east stand is completed.

It has of course been a long and drawn out process to even get to this point, with the stand having been sat in its current half-finished state since the financial crisis that engulfed in the club in late 2015.

The fallout from the 'missing millions' of the loan the Northampton Borough Council issued to the club when it was under the stewardship of previous chairman David Cardoza continues to rumble on.

CGI of the proposed new east stand

Thomas and fellow owner David Bower rescued the club from going under in November, 2015, and have always stated that it is their intention to get the east stand finished, but as yet all they have managed is to install new seats to at least make it usable.

They previously dealt with the NBC over trying to get things moving, but since April they have been in talks with the new West Northamptonshire Council, and Thomas is confident the process is now moving forward.

Although he cannot say at what pace.

Asked if he has any idea when the stand may be completed, Thomas said: "It is going to be the question we are constantly asked, and will be asked.

Kelvin Thomas

"It is an independent process with the council and that is what they are going through.

"We can't dictate that time, and I don't think the council can really dictate that time, because it wouldn't be independent if we could.

"If we said, or the council said, you have got to do this in two weeks, it wouldn't be the right thing to do, so we are going through that process.

"Once that process is done, if there is an agreement or there is a decision, then it will go to cabinet.

How the east stand looked in 2015

"Then the members of the cabinet will go through that decision making process, which is again a public process that is independently scrutinised, internally and externally at the council with the people of Northamptonshire.

"Once that is completed, then we will hopefully have legal agreements and then we move on to final planning stages, in terms of working with the builders, and looking to complete.

"Once those things happen, we will be able to get on site as quickly as we can and that is the key.

"The funds are available as they always have been, and we are ready to go."

And on those funds, Thomas stated that there will be no finance sought from elsewhere to build the stand, and that the monies will come from him and his co-owner.

"Initially it will add debt to the football club, of course it will, because it is funding we are going to have to put in," said the chairman. "But the funding has never been an issue.

How the east stand looks today

"Some people will say that we said it was ring-fenced, etc, but that is not actually what we said.

"We said the funding was available at the start, we thought this is how much it would cost, and that has been proved right in terms of the costings.

"We have probably put more into the football club than we ever imagined, but we didn't think this would take this long.

"Don't forget, that is an asset of this football club, and the biggest difference with all of this is what happened previously and what happens now."

Despite no movement on the building of the stand, progress has been painstakingly made behind the scenes, with a key development being the transferral of the ownership of County Developments Northampton Ltd (CDNL) to the club in October, 2019.

CDNL was previously controlled by former chairman Cardoza and his father, Anthony, with the company owning a key section of the land behind the east stand, including the old athletics track area.

The Cobblers owners took control of CDNL in 2017, before transferring it to the club two years later, and Thomas said: "The football club owns the leases to that land, nobody separate, nobody independent, it is the football club that owns the company CDNL 100 per cent.

"The football club own it, so that any development and profit that eventually comes, and this is not an overnight process, we are talking years away.

"Any development profit, or any development funds that come from that enabling development will come back into the football club, it is as simple as that.

"Then what happens with that money? We don't know at this point whether we pay down some debt, whether we build another stand with it, we have no idea because we are talking years down the road.

"But even if we did just pay down debt, then surely that is still of benefit to the football club, because the reality is the football club would end up with a finished stand and less debt, and the debt is what got the club into a problem in the first place.

"So we are providing the funding, and whether that comes back later, we can't be committed to that because we don't know what the position is going to be like in two or three years.

"I know people like to paint it as that is going to happen overnight, but that is not going to happen, these are long-term development projects.

"A typical developer would look at this site and probably be making decisions three to five years out, and we are talking about the development here, not the stand.

"That development doesn't happen until the stand is complete, so that needs to happen as quickly as we can get it done."