Extra time in battle of legal costs over Leeds arena

Jan Fletcher
Jan Fletcher
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Yorkshire businesswoman Jan Fletcher has been granted extra time to come up with an acceptable way of paying council bosses money they are owed from her failed Leeds arena legal challenge.

During a bankruptcy hearing at Harrogate County Court at the start of this month, Ms Fletcher’s lawyers said she was preparing to make an offer to Leeds City Council regarding the £2m interim costs.

At a follow-up hearing today, however, it emerged that she has yet to put forward an offer that the council deems to be credible.

The case was adjourned to give her another chance to bring a suitable payment proposal to the table.

It is understood that the council did not raise any objection to today’s adjournment.

A spokeswoman for the local authority said: “We will continue our efforts to maximise recovery of these costs and Ms Fletcher needs to honour the commitment she made and come up with a credible offer to meet the debt to the council taxpayers of Leeds.”

Ms Fletcher originally took the council to court following its decision in 2008 to make Clay Pit Lane, in Leeds city centre, the home of the arena.

It had been thought that Sweet Street in Holbeck – a site owned by her Harrogate-based Montpellier Estates firm – and land next to Leeds United’s Elland Road ground were the only places in contention to secure the flagship scheme.

In the event, however, the council not only chose Clay Pit Lane, it decided to build the £60m venue itself.

Ms Fletcher alleged that she had been tricked by council chiefs into taking part in a sham selection process.

Rejecting the £40m damages claim in February last year, Mr Justice Supperstone described her evidence as “unsatisfactory”.

At a hearing in October, the same judge gave Ms Fletcher four weeks to pay the council’s interim costs.

No money was forthcoming, which led to the authority bringing a bankruptcy action against her.

When a person is made bankrupt, they have to hand over their assets to a trustee such as the official receiver.

The trustee then oversees the sale of the person’s assets – possibly including their home – to pay their debts.

Montpellier Estates went into voluntary liquidation last year, with an extensive portfolio of its land and property – including its site at Sweet Street – being placed under the stewardship of receivers.

Council bosses have said they received a personal undertaking from Ms Fletcher in 2012 that she would cover costs from the arena court case should her company be unable to do so.

Leeds, Sweet street, 28th March 1979'LIGHTING'Mr. Eddie Mullan, a lift engineer at the City of Leeds Public Works Department, Sweet Street, gives a last polish to one of the four old gas lamps that are to be sent to Germany.

Leeds nostalgia: Bits of old Leeds sent to Germany... in 1979