WAKEFIELD TRINITY say they are preparing to go to the High Court to secure a new community stadium in the Newmarket area of the city.
The Super League club have hit out at Wakefield Council following the collapse of proposals – announced just two months ago – for a modern, purpose-built stadium on their current Belle Vue site.
In a statement, club directors Chris Brereton and Michael Carter blame the council for the current deadlock.
Planning permission was granted for a community stadium at Newmarket five years ago, but work has yet to begin.
It seemed Trinity would instead be staying put when, in September, the club, council and ground owners announced plans for a completely rebuilt stadium at Belle Vue.
But Trinity pulled out of that scheme after refusing to agree to the council’s terms over rent and they are now demanding the Newmarket proposal goes ahead.
We simply require the council to fulfil its statutory duties. The council now seeks to lay the blame for the mess, which it has created, at the door of Wakefield Trinity.Wakefield Trinity statement
The council have responded saying they are disappointed by the threat of legal action and say the allegations are untrue.
“The developer has its planning consent, but not a brick has been laid on the [Newmarket] Stadium site,” Brereton and Carter say in their statement.
“We simply require the council to fulfil its statutory duties. The council now seeks to lay the blame for the mess, which it has created, at the door of Wakefield Trinity.
“The current proposal that we pay a commercial/reasonable rent (of which we have yet to see any detail or figures) for the new community stadium at Belle Vue is unacceptable.
“There is a legally binding obligation for the council to provide a 99-year lease at a peppercorn yearly rental to the Wakefield and District Community Trust.
“The Trust in turn would create a lease to Wakefield Trinity, as anchor tenants, at a nominal rent to cover the Trust’s operating expenses.
“Wakefield Trinity would then enjoy the rewards from the stadium, but would also be liable for all associated risks in operating a stadium. This was and remains entirely acceptable.”
The statement claims the club directors have invested more than £1m of their own money “resurrecting what was a bankrupt rugby league club”, but accused the council of not being prepared to ensure Trinity has a long-term, sustainable future.
The statement adds: “It was and remains entirely within the council’s power to compel the developer at Newmarket to deliver the stadium.”
It goes on: “We are now preparing our case for presentation to the High Court. We have waited since June 2012 for the council to deliver Newmarket Stadium. We are no nearer today then we were then.
“We have a duty to our fans and the city of Wakefield to ensure the long term survival and success of the club.”
Responding, Wakefield Council’s deputy leader councillor Denise Jeffery said: “We are saddened and extremely disappointed that the owners of Wakefield Trinity have resorted to the threat of legal action.
“Whilst we would very much welcome the opportunity to address, in court, the serious and completely untrue allegations that have been levelled at us, our priority is to try and get a community stadium delivered for the people of this district.
“Yet again, we are dismayed by the wholly inaccurate comments made by the club owners about the Newmarket development, especially the claim that there is a ‘legally binding obligation for the council to provide a 99 year lease at a peppercorn yearly rental to the Wakefield and District Community Trust’ as there is no reference, at all, in the unilateral undertaking to this.
“Although it is it frustrating that the club continue to publish inaccurate statements, it is the fact that it misleads fans and residents that concerns us the most.”
She added: “Legal action will be a very costly and lengthy course of action for all parties involved and ultimately the people who will lose the most is the fans and residents and that is the most upsetting part of this situation.”