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Sunday, July 26, 2020

On This Day In 2001 - Fans Forum At Edgar Street

On this very day 19 years ago a fans forum took place at Edgar Street.

A look back to July 26th 2001:

Tonight's HUISA fans forum at Edgar Street saw Hereford MP Paul Keetch and City Council Leader Terry James answer questions about the redevelopment of the Edgar Street area and the future of Hereford United. The general concensus at the start was that little progress had been made in the last two years, but particularly from James, it is clear that there have been further discussions regarding the possible out-of-town relocation of the cattle market and possible development.

The meeting started with Paul Keetch displaying his utter disappointment at the failure for the Conference to achieve a second promotion place to the Football League. He said that he had supported the motion as did the former sports minister, Kate Hoey.

As the forum progressed, it was evident that the redevelopment of the Edgar Street area would indeed include Hereford United Football Club remaining in the city centre, and also that the new development could house leisure facilities, a tourist attraction and a central county council building, instead of the current nineteen offices dotted around the area. The whole site should be classed as one development opportunity, not several small ones.

However, the football club is just a small pawn in the overall development and the public must be persuaded that the idea for development is to include something for them. Plans that were released in the Hereford Times some two years ago were rejected by Terry James as rubbish after being presented to him by a supporter, and not official at all. He said that they were made up to fill a space in the paper.

The redevelopment should be seen as an opportunity for Hereford, according to Keetch, to catch-up with the likes of Cheltenham and Worcester, who draw people out of the Hereford area. Whatever happens, it now seems as if United will stay at Edgar Street and, with help of development companies and the council, their debts could be cleared.

Terry James told the forum, as he had done many times to Graham Turner, that it was lucky that Edgar Street didn't belong to the club. Had it been owned by the club, Hereford United would be history because the creditors would have taken the money and run.

However, James did say that due to the law, the council cannot pay off the debts of United as it is a private company, but can help the club by redeveloping the stadium and also asking the developers to drop the money owed to them as part of a much bigger project. However, he refuted claims that a supermarket would be built on the site, as there were enough in the town already and it wouldn't be in the public interest.

Fans said that James had come to a similar forum two years ago and said exactly the same thing, but he responded in saying progress had been made. There were no solid plans, but he wanted to hold a competition to design the area so people could decide what they wanted in the area. Within a year, James hoped that the whole plan would be finalised.

Keetch responded to a point that little had been done over the last two years by outlining the size of the project, and then satisfying the farmers who didn't want the market moved out of town. He then said that farming brings in more money to the area than Hereford United ever does, and implied that the market was more important than the football club. At the end of the meeting, a farmer told Keetch that the market should be moved as it was outdated and congested in the city centre.

The harsh reality of the United situation was outlined when the two speakers were told that there are developers waiting for Hereford United to fold, and whilst there is still a football club, the council's redevelopment plans are the only option.

Unfortunately, Keetch dropped himself in it when a supporter underlined the importance of Hereford United to the city - not only through its cup runs but also by quoting that Hereford United have more supporters per person in their hometown than any other football club in Britain. Instead of playing up the comment, Keetch said that it didn't show up very well for British football.

Overall, most will agree that whilst little progress was made on the night, the situation of what is to happen and the councils plans are clearer than what they were. However, with the clock ticking down to 2003, everyone will be hoping that the council can present some solid plans - soon.