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Hitchin Town FC's Position on Top Field

Author: Hitchin Town Football Club Published: 2nd July 2012 21:44

Hitchin Town wishes to update its supporters and the broader Hitchin public on its stance regarding the
proposal made by the Cow Commoners.

The lease on Top Field

This is due for renewal in 2013. The club has applied for a new lease and the Cow Commoners had until June 12 to object to the renewal of the lease. No objection has been received, and this means that the lease must be

Discussions on the development of Top Field

The club wishes to reiterate that it has not been party to the development of Top Field by New Road. We are not supporting said development or the club's relocation.

Our position on the proposed development is driven by professional planning advice from both North Herts District Council planning officers and the club's own planning consultant.

As a matter of law, no development can take place at Top Field without replacement facilities being provided for the Football Club.

The proposed relocation site is in the Green Belt. The facilities proposed by the Cow Commoners would not be acceptable in such a location as they would breach both Policy 2 of the NHDC local plan and provisions of the
National Planning Policy Framework. Policy 2 (Green Belt) is as follows:

"In the Green Belt, as shown on the Proposals Map, the Council will aim to keep the uses of land open in character. Except for proposals within settlements which accord with Policy 3, or in very special circumstances,
planning permission will only be granted for new buildings, extensions, and changes of use of buildings and of land which are appropriate in the Green Belt, and which would not result in significant visual impact."

Policy 3 (Settlements within with Green Belt)

In settlements within the Green Belt, the Council will not normally permit development proposals, except for:

(i) that strictly necessary for the housing and employment needs of agriculture, forestry, leisure and local services in the rural areas that cannot practicably be met outside the Green Belt; or

(ii) the local facilities and services needs of the settlement within which the development is proposed; or

(iii) the meeting of an identified rural housing need in compliance with Policy 29; or

(iv) a single dwelling on a small plot located within the built core of the settlement, which will not result in the outward expansion of the settlement or have any other adverse impact on the local environment or other policy aims within the Green Belt.

The condition precedent to a redevelopment of Top Field for a supermarket will not be fulfilled by the present proposals. If it did, we think it very unlikely that the proposed supermarket could comply with Policy 42 of the
NHDC local plan which outlines that the Council will permit development which support and maintain shopping as the main activity in its town centres. Furthermore, any proposal must not seriously affect the vitality
and viability of a nearby town centre as a whole.

The proposal

Hitchin Town has asked the Cow Commoners for clarification of their proposals but no reply has been received.

Moreover, the club spoke to NHDC planning and they have confirmed that no planning application has been received and that no pre-application discussions with developers had taken place.

There is obviously great concern about the future of Top Field and this has confirmed to us that the town of Hitchin has great affection for the football club and the historic site of Top Field. This has manifested
itself in the form of a large number of letters, almost all of which have been against the development of Top Field, and of course, the "Save Top Field" campaign.

The best possible outcome as far as the football club is concerned is that it should be allowed to acquire Top Field and develop the site to the required standard, thus maintaining senior football in the town.

We should like to thank our fans for their support during this unfortunate series of events and look forward to bringing the saga to a successful conclusion as soon as possible.

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