In this article, following the one issued on 13 February, Grant questions whether the landlords have the legal or moral authority to sell the ground and highlights some potential obstacles to the proposed move.
“My last article on the history of the ground attracted quite a lot of compliments and comments, including I have heard “likes” on social media, even though I do not use it myself. A few directors of our landlords the BSGCA have taken issue with some aspects. That included a letter from its current chairman Paul Forster, published in this week’s Gazette. It was in response to John Waller, who kicked off the debate previously in their letters column.
The club is still waiting for the BSGCA to produce a copy of any trust deed over Broadwater. One big issue is a BSGCA director claiming that as part of the Sports Ground was sold off in 1983 for the Broadwater flats, and selling land is in their constitution, surely they must have a right to sell the remaining Broadwater stadium for housing and to finance BSGCA/Thakeham’s plans for sport in Bourne End. Ultimately it would take a court judgement to definitively resolve that issue. Morality has a place as well as law and anyway two wrongs would not make a right
Planning law and charity law have moved a long way since the 1980s. The planning dodge that got the Broadwater flats built has gone. That was through insisting that the first buyers of the flats were elderly people. Broadwater and the adjoining area between the canal and railway should remain the green lungs of the town centre, zoned for leisure and amenity use.
I do not think it will get as far as court, as I would expect Dacorum Council to kick into touch any plan to put housing on the Broadwater pitch. That is equally true, whether Dacorum stick with their current draft local plan for housing in Berkhamsted or amend it to allow Thakeham’s mega estate. The latter seeks to join Berkhamsted to Bourne End, with just a new sports ground as a green buffer between the two settlements. Either plan would allow Berkhamsted to meet its target housing numbers, without building on Broadwater.
As it is 3.5 miles from Broadwater to Bourne End, new facilities would be too far away to permit the destruction of the Broadwater Stadium under planning law that protects existing sport grounds from other uses. Our wish to stay where senior non-league football is viable, would also be taken into account, as would our opinion that Bourne End does not look viable to the club in the long term. Incidentally the BSGCA have produced no financial information to the club on financial viability. Bourne End would fail the transport sustainability test too because cars are needed to reach Bourne End. We will be able to point to non-league stadia where the planners have insisted on stands for vast numbers of bicycles to tick green boxes Thakeham/BSGCA style. In the real world, where built, the cycle stands lie empty even on matchdays as people arrive at out-of-town grounds by car.
I had a spell as a director of the BSGA (note the missing C) in the 1980s, soon after the first sports ground sale. A lot has happened since then, including the BSGA changing its name to include the word charitable and to alter its constitution in many ways, in order to be allowed to become a Registered Charity and to be charitable for tax purposes.
Registered Charities cannot ignore where their endowment funds came from and the conditions attached. I think that is why some on the BSGCA, are now seeking to question John Waller’s grandfather’s claims. For new readers, they were that football was to be played in perpetuity at the Sports Ground and that was what the public was told in the 1920’s to persuade them to provide the money to buy it. Unsuccessful attempts are also being made to pick holes in documents that I referred to in my last article, that also back the funding and perpetuity points. When I was on the football club committee in the 1980’s leagues used to query the then lack of a lease for the club from the BSGA and lack of security of tenure. The chairman of the BSGA used to respond to the leagues in question, writing that the Sports Ground was there for football in perpetuity, which was longer than you would get with a fixed term lease.
You can still sign our petition to keep football at Broadwater and you have until the end of February to send Dacorum Council your observations on that and on housing plans in Berkhamsted. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org including your name and address and quoting draft local plan section 23.1”.