YORKSHIRE businesswoman Jan Fletcher has been given less than a month to pay council bosses £2m as the fall-out continues from her failed Leeds arena legal challenge.
A High Court judge today (October 17) granted Leeds City Council permission to pursue Ms Fletcher personally for costs it ran up while successfully defending her £40m damages claim over the way the competition to develop the arena was handled.
The high-profile millionaire’s firm, Montpellier Estates Limited (MEL), was ordered to pay interim costs of £2m in April after her challenge was defeated.
Council chiefs said in July that “no payment or credible proposal for payment” had been forthcoming from MEL and the following month the company went into voluntary liquidation.
Today, at the High Court in Leeds, Mr Justice Supperstone approved an application from the council for Ms Fletcher to be joined into its costs claim.
He also issued an order that she pay the interim costs of £2m before November 14, pending a final decision on the total amount due.
A spokeswoman for the council said: “We’re pleased that Mr Justice Supperstone has granted this order.
“As we have stressed previously we gave MEL and Ms Fletcher every opportunity to meet the interim costs, including agreeing to extend the legal deadline for payment.
“This has left us with no choice but to take this action and we would be failing in our duty to the council taxpayers of Leeds if we did not actively pursue these very large costs.”
Ms Fletcher took the council to court following its surprise decision in 2008 to make Clay Pit Lane, in Leeds city centre, the home of the arena.
It had been thought Sweet Street in Holbeck – a site owned by MEL – and land next to Leeds United’s Elland Road ground were the only places in contention to win the scheme. In the event, however, the council not only chose Clay Pit Lane, it decided to build the venue itself.
Ms Fletcher alleged that she had been duped by council bosses into taking part in a sham selection process.
As previously reported by the Yorkshire Evening Post, MEL passed a resolution that it be voluntarily wound up at a meeting on August 7 at its head office in Harrogate.