Council criticised over handling of Wakefield stadium deal

Chris Brereton.Chris Brereton.
Chris Brereton.
WAKEFIELD and District Community Trust member Chris Brereton believes Wakefield Council could find itself in court over the circumstances surrounding the reclassification of 200 acres of green belt land at Newmarket.

In an exclusive interview with The Yorkshire Post, he has questioned the Wakefield Council’s inability to enforce a Section 106 agreement, in relation to the proposed new 12,000 seater community stadium on that site.

Planning consent was granted in 2009 but so far there are still no signs of development.

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Back then, after a public enquiry, the Secretary of State determined the greenbelt land could be reclassified for development, only if the developer - Yorkcourt Properties - handed 35 acres to the Community Trust and contributed £9m towards the cost of building the new stadium and other facilities.

However, Wakefield Council’s accepted a Section 106 made by ‘unilateral undertaking’ rather than the more common ‘multi-party agreement’.

It means the developer does not have to outlay for the stadium - where Super League club Wakefield Trinity hope to be anchor tenants - until 60,000 square metres of space which can be occupied, is on the land.

At that point, the Council, which spent £150,000 on detailed plans for the ground, would also have to fund £2m towards the project. Wakefield Council’s did, though, later grant planning permission for a 40,000 square metres cold store facility on the same site but, crucially, that did not count towards the trigger point due to it being too high to be included within the initial planning agreement.

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The Community Trust argue the Section 106 should have been enforced at that juncture and, as it has not, they are no nearer the end goal.

They fear the developer could, in future, submit separate applications for the site without ever reaching the trigger point.

Mr Brereton, who also co-owns Trinity, said: “The council say they took legal advice before they allowed planning consent (for the cold store) at Newmarket yet can’t produce evidence of this legal advice so who did they get it from?

“Solicitors don’t tend to work for free. They’ve asked for this legal advice from some person unknown, they can’t provide the identity of who it is, and can’t provide the advice that was given as they claim they don’t hold it.

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“Subsequently, they then told us it was verbal advice from their own in-house lawyer. It beggars belief they are prepared to bat us off with ‘we took legal advice’ yet they don’t hold it.

“I’ve said to them, in the fullness of time, we are actually going to finish up in a court, in front of two judges having a judicial review.

“And if they think saying they took legal advice but can’t now find it - and it was verbal and from their own in-house lawyer - will cut it with a pair of judges then good luck to them.

“But it isn’t good enough is it? Why don’t they stop messing around, just come to the party and admit they have made an absolutely catastrophic mess of this effort to deliver a community stadium.”

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Trinity say they will have to leave the city and current home Belle Vue - where they have played since 1895 - at the end of this season as the ground is no longer fit for purpose.

This may result in them losing their Super League licence.

Wakefield Council has managed to gain a ‘multi-party agreement’ for neighbours Castleford Tigers’ planned new stadium a few miles away yet building work has yet to start there either and they remain at Wheldon Road.

Brereton added: “There are two Super League clubs that are both still playing in decrepit clapped-out, Victorian stadiums and they are both in the WMDC area.

“I just don’t believe in coincidences. Why is that?

“Why is it that WMDC simply cannot possibly seem to get its act together in relation to sport.

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“We have the fourth highest incidence of childhood obesity in the country; alarm bells should be ringing left, right and centre.

“It is completely impossible for a club to find a new stadium outside of its natural income streams.

“The last time I looked the Warrington Wolves owner Simon Moran’s net worth was estimated around £400m yet Tesco built the stadium for the club as a result of a Section 106 agreement.

“Leeds City Council are tipping money into Headingley yet Leeds Rhinos and Yorkshire County Cricket club are both owned by spectacularly wealthy men.

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“The hard fact is Wakefield City Council have a very stark choice: they either want Super League rugby in their city, in which their case they have simply got to help to resolve this Community Stadium problem, or they don’t.”

Wakefield Council was contacted for a comment but did not respond.