Leeds arena court battle

YORKSHIRE entrepreneur Jan Fletcher has begun the latest stage of her legal action against council bosses in Leeds over their handling of the city's concert arena project.

Ms Fletcher's Montpellier Estates firm filed a claim on Friday at London's High Court of Justice against Leeds City Council for alleged "deceit in the procurement" of the 80m arena.

The Harrogate-based businesswoman's action centres on the council's surprise announcement in November 2008 that it would be building the venue itself at Clay Pit Lane.

It had been thought the only locations under consideration as potential homes for the arena were Sweet Street in Holbeck and land next to Leeds United's Elland Road ground.

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The 10-acre plot at Sweet Street is owned by Ms Fletcher.

A statement released by Montpellier says the council "repeatedly reassured" the firm that it did not want to build the arena itself.

It also says Montpellier incurred what proved to be "unnecessary and abortive" costs during the bidding process.

Commenting on the High Court action, Ms Fletcher said: "I am deeply saddened at the need to file this deceit case.

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"No one is more passionate about Leeds than I am.

"I have spent two years trying to work with Leeds City Council to find a solution to this claim but we have now exhausted all options."

Ms Fletcher got the green light to take her grievances to the High Court following legal proceedings in London over the summer.

She has also recently submitted a planning application for a two million sq ft leisure, retail and residential development at Sweet Street.

Construction work on the 13,500-capacity arena, meanwhile, is due to start early next year at the council-owned Clay Pit Lane site, near the Merrion shopping centre.

The local authority today said Ms Fletcher's claim was "desperate and vexatious".

It has previously said it chose to abandon the tendering process because the bidders' plans were " not affordable".

BY PAUL ROBINSON

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