Full public consultation will take place on three options for the club’s future
29 September ~ Hitchin Town of the Southern Premier made national headlines last season when they won a battle to stay at their historic home of Top Field. The club, beaten 10-1 by a strong Norwich City team in July in a match to celebrate their 150th anniversary, triumphed against a property developer attempting to relocate the Canaries – the north Hertfordshire version – to an out-of-town site, in a decision taken by the club’s trustees behind closed doors.
However, the yellow and greens, who beat Suffolk’s Kirkley & Pakefield from the Eastern Counties League, 2-0 in the second FA Cup preliminary round on Saturday, have once again made news off-the-pitch by exploring the options left open to them this week – with a viable option being a move to a local school to secure the club’s long-term future.
The club’s chief executive Andy Melvin says they have three options. First, they could stay and do nothing to the evocative but cramped ground, two, a partial redevelopment, or three, a move to a nearby school. The news, ahead of a public meeting this Wednesday night, was greeted with mixed feelings in the town. Not least because many who marched to save Top Field feel let down.
I broke the story, and covered the Save Top Field campaign last season for the local paper, the Hitchin Comet, and it seems to me that the main difference this time around is the fact the public will be fully consulted, and opinions canvassed, before any decision is made. Club legend Melvin – who was manager when the non-League club achieved their finest FA Cup moment 20 years ago beating Bristol Rovers 2-1 in the FA Cup first round – is emphasising nothing has been decided yet, and the outcome lies entirely with the people of the town as to a possible move.
He said: “I can’t stress enough that transparency, and a dialogue with stakeholders through a democratic and open process is vitally important to us – nothing will happen without a consensus. There has to be a common vision on the issue of the club’s long-term future, and there are many things that will be discussed at our public meeting next Wednesday and beyond. We’re exploring the possibility of moving lock, stock and barrel to the Priory School with their agreement, in a partnership beneficial to the wider community, the school and the club. I’d encourage everyone who cares about the future of Hitchin Town to come along to Top Field on Wednesday to learn more.”