Northampton 'to back' clubs' development plans

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Councillors in Northampton have backed a motion pledging support and help for future development plans by the town's football and rugby clubs.

In the past the Borough Council has often discouraged retail development on land owned by the clubs in an attempt to protect town centre schemes.

But a council majority has now agreed to recognise "the importance and value of the Saints and the Cobblers" and to invite future planning applications.

The rugby and football clubs have given the move a cautious welcome.

The rugby club is developing a new 3,500 seater stand at Franklin's Gardens and the football club is to enter into talks with council officers on what might be achievable.

'Cautious' welcome

Conservative group leader David Palethorpe proposed the motion marking both clubs' contribution "to the sporting, cultural and economic well-being of the town" and it attracted majority backing from all parties.

But Richard Church, from the ruling Liberal Democrat group who have been in power for nearly four years, said he was concerned that such a motion might prejudice the planning process with regard to any future applications by the clubs.

Speaking after the meeting, Chris Wearmouth, of Northampton Saints, said the club was pleased the motion had been passed but it was not putting forward a timetable for development.

He acknowledged that talks been held with a retail company about developing the car park at Franklin's Gardens but said the club was a long way from putting plans on the table.

Gareth Wilsher at Northampton Town FC said: "We have been looking to proceed with our redevelopment for a number of years so we give a cautious welcome to the news.

"Our welcome is only cautious, because we have been here and seen this before.

"However this motion does give us renewed hope and optimism that the borough council can see sense and that we can work in partnership to fulfil our ambitions on behalf of the club, the community and the town."

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