Another York community stadium “work starting” announcement

Déjà vu seeks stadium naming rights!

Land sale value falling

As we predicted earlier in the year, the new community stadium at Monks Cross will not be ready for occupation by the rugby and football Clubs until the middle of 2019.

As recently as April, the Council was still saying the work would be completed in late 2018.

Now it seems that the Council will – at its own risk- authorise building work to start before the final financial contracts have been signed. A report says that this will put £500,000 potentially at risk.

The report also says that a £2.7 million reduction in build costs will be achieved by a cross subsidy from commercial building works. They report that this means that build costs will be £34 million although any saving will be added to the “contingency” reserve, which is built into the budget.

So probably no saving for taxpayers.

The figures quoted in the report do not mention the millions already spent on administration. Other elements of the project bring the total cost to £42 million.

It fails to highlight the risks being taken on by the Council as the principal leaseholder of the southern commercial block.

The report also says the Council will get a lower price (£10.76m) when it sells land for the southern block and the lease on the east stand restaurants. This is £2.6 million less than forecast in March 2016.

The Council have announced that GLL will continue to run the Yearsley swimming pool at least until 2024. The Yearsley subsidy from taxpayers is  £340,000 pa.

The Monks Cross plans still incorporate an additional new – largely inessential – swimming pool.

The Council says that it will not enter a deal with the existing York Libraries Trust for use of the new on-site library. They rather ominously say this is because the intend to re-tender for a new library service operator in 2018.

The proposed stadium name sponsor has walked away from the deal.

We hope that something finally comes out of the project. The present Council finishes its term of office in May 2019 only weeks before the latest stadium opening date. We hope that they will have something to celebrate.

Salford City stadium almost finished in 18 months

However, they may reflect that, since funding for a stadium was first identified in 2009, ten years will have passed during which delay after delay has occurred.

The deal currently on the table will see the Councils leisure centres like Energise and Yearsley transferred over to the management of GLL, with all that may entail for staff and charges.

It is salutary to note that the Salford football club, who will ply their trade in the 6th tier of English football with York City this season, have managed to plan and build a tidy stadium in only 18 months. It is only slightly smaller than the déjà vu stadium in York but has been developed at only a fraction of the York cost.

Latest and previous timetable

York Council investment programme slips

A Council report shows an out-turn of £35.751m on the Council capital investment budget compared to an approved budget of £52.428, an overall variation of £16.677m.

Community stadium start slips

The biggest slippage (£3.5 million) was on the York Central project although there were also delays in other areas including school maintenance, housing construction, the Glen Lodge extension, waste disposal, IT development and upgrades to buses.

The report shows that expenditure on the Community Stadium has also slipped again with the bulk of the work now expected in 2018/19. In total, the Council will spend £36 million on this project although this figure does not include the substantial sums spent to date or the (privately funded) commercial elements of the project.

The report goes on to say;

Mansion House cost up by £150,000

  • that the Mansion House restoration scheme has an outturn position of £1.031m in 2016/17, requiring re-profiling of £515k of funds from 2017/18 into 2016/17. The work is now expected to be completed in August 2017.  The report goes on to say that “as the works contract has progressed a number of areas of additional work have been identified as necessary to safeguard the future of the Mansion House, these essential restoration works will cost an additional £150”.
  • the Tenants Choice programme saw 120 properties have their kitchens, bathrooms and wiring updated through the year. This is significantly lower than the 220 properties that were planned. This is due to problems with tenants refusing works, delays due to damp problems and delays with kitchen deliveries. The scheme under spent by £416k in 2016/17
  • the proposed developments at Newbury Avenue and Chaloners Road have also been delayed. The development now proposed is for 5-6 bungalows and “will be submitted for planning approval in July”. The development of homes at Chaloners Road was postponed when the developer withdrew from the contract. A revised scheme will be submitted for planning approval in late summer 2017
A summary of the Councils £1/4 billion investment plans can be found below

Community Stadium – Cinema car parking deal

The York Council has agreed that customers of the proposed cinema at the Community Stadium will be able to use the park and ride car park “on an evening, out of hours of normal operation”. In a behind closed doors decision session officials agreed a contract to “enter into such an agreement “if and when the site and cinema are complete and in full operation”

Currently park and ride services operate to Monks Cross until 9:15pm each week day evening. The access gates are locked at 9:45pm to prevent overnight parking.

The expectation had been that bus services would continue until later in the evening when football matches were being held at the new stadium.

No details of the financial arrangements for any contract have been released.

The Community Stadium project – which is running 4 years behind schedule –  will next be discussed by the Council’s Executive on 13th July.

York Community Stadium – contractor pulls out

Reports are circulating this morning that the building contractor for the York Community Stadium has withdrawn from the project.

June 2012 plans

June 2012 plans

ISG was appointed nearly 2 years ago as part of a “design, build, operate & maintain” team overseen by Greenwich Leisure.

A Council report on the £41 million Community Stadium project was published on Friday but makes no reference to ISG’s position. The report – prepared by Council officials – was criticised for not providing an update on the projects financial and business plan.

The much delayed  facility – originally scheduled to open in 2012 – is currently subject to a Judicial Review. The review is expected to be completed in January.

The delays may be taking their toll on the two principal occupants of the Stadium. The Knights Rugby Club was taken over by a new owner last week while York City Football Club currently lie bottom of the National League and seemingly heading for relegation and matches against the likes of Harrogate Town.

A deal was concluded in 2010 which saw a budget of £16 million secured by means of a Section 106 agreement with the developer of a nearby shopping centre.

Now it looks like taxpayers will also face a £12 million bill.

While most of the blame for the failures rest with the then Labour run administration, which drew up the unnecessarily complex contract in 2012, it is a crying shame that the current coalition run Council failed to get a grip on the project when it took control of local affairs in May 2015.

The Council is now caught between a rock and a hard place.

Community Stadium

Community Stadium Nov 2014York Knights Rugby League Club is to get a £45,000 subsidy from the Council next year. The payment will allow them to continue playing their games at Bootham Crescent.  The recommendation is being made to a Council meeting next week and follows reports that the rugby club has been taken over by new owners.

It appears that the builders of the new Community Stadium may be unable – because of the delays caused by a Judicial Review of the plans – to sustain the tenders that they originally submitted.

Officials warn that the cost of the project could, therefore, increase.

Although the new stadium could be open in the summer of 2018, if the Judicial Review is successful then a new planning application would be needed.

This could add between 6 months and 12 months to the timetable.timetable-dec-2016

Doubts continue over the future of the Yearsley swimming pool which – in the event of the new sports centre at Monks Cross getting the go ahead – could find itself in an increasingly competitive environment.

A report is expect early next year following discussions between the Council, Nestle and the Yearsley Pool Action Group.  Many residents would prefer to retain the Yearsley facility while jettisoning the expensive new pool at Monks Cross, which is inessential and adds substantially to the Community Stadium project costs.

The Council claims in the report that agreement has now been reached on the use of some facilities at the Community Stadium by the NHS, York Against Cancer and York Libraries,

The report pointedly does not provide an revised financial appraisal of the project or an updated business plan.

York Community Stadium – another twist

York stadium-AerialThere will be a Judicial Review into the Council’s decision to grant planning permission for significant changes to the Community Stadium complex at Huntington.

The application for the Review was made by a cinema group who claimed that the planning process had not been fully implemented when revised plans were approved in June

The decision to hold a Review will add at least 6 months to the development timetable. If the Courts find that the Council did not follow proper processes in the lead up to the June meeting, then the planning application will have to be considered again. While there is no reason to suppose that the final decision would be any different, the complexities of the project mean that further legal challenges could not be ruled out.

Indeed the project may become mired in the Courts for years as appeals are considered.

The present stadium design links it to the other commercial and leisure uses so it is not possible to simply get on with the stadium build in isolation.

By now the Council should have got the message that it has overextended itself and a much simpler stadium needs to be substituted. There is still S106 funding available to provide a modest but adequate football/rugby ground.

Any “Plan B” might mean that some features of the overall project – such as the new swimming pool – would have to be jettisoned.

But at least tangible progress would be possible.  In the meantime both the Rugby and Football clubs are suffering as a result of the off field indecision

More concern over Community Stadium project

The proposed operator of the Council’s indoor sports facilities is under fire in some parts of the Country over safety standards.
PE extract 2nd Sept 2016

Private Eye magazine 2nd Sept 2016

According to Private Eye magazine (right) Greenwich Leisure has been slow to respond to complaints of tainted water in one of its pools in Swindon.

Greenwich Leisure is a not for profit “community interest company” which ran the Waterworld leisure centre on behalf of the council before it was demolished as part of a larger project to build a new community stadium.

Use of Waterworld declined rapidly and the, then Labour led, authority made additional subsidy payments to the operator between April and November 2014 to keep the pool open.

The payments were later subject to an auditor’s report.

Greenwich Leisure were appointed as the preferred contractor not only for the Stadium and associated swimming pool and sports centre but also the Yearsley pool and Energise sports centre on the other side of the City.

We reported in August 2014 that increasing costs were threatening the future of the Community Stadium complex. Things have deteriorated further since then with planning permission for additional commercial development now subject to a Judicial Review.

It has been clear for several years that the increasing size and complexity of the project has jeopardised not only the interests of taxpayers but has even brought into question whether some sports facilities in the City may also now face closure.

Recently the Council agreed to subsidise the use of Bootham Crescent by the Rugby Club until the new stadium has been completed. It is unclear how much this will cost taxpayers.

The York Council has yet to comment on the reports about swimming pool safety.

Community Stadium – where next?

Good news that the York Council, York City FC and the Knights Rugby Club seemed to have reached a more robust agreement for playing matches at Bootham Crescent.

The next fixture in the “super 8’s” contest has been confirmed for Sunday afternoon (2:00pm) at the ground.

Our comment in March

Our comment in March (click)

However, speculation is increasing over the fate of the Community Stadium project itself.

A revised planning application for the stadium was granted in March 2015. The proposal could have been “called in” by the Secretary of State or made subject to a Judicial Review.

Neither happened, so it was a surprise when changes to the layout of the stadium were placed before the Planning Committee on 8th June 2016.  Important backers had withdrawn from the project and the Council was struggling to pre-let some of the commercial floor-space.

The changes were controversial involving as they did an enlarged multiplex cinema.

A further 10-week period, during which a Judicial Review of the scheme can be requested, ends in a few days’ time.

No statement has been issued by the Council, but in June Reel cinemas – who feared that the new multiplex would damage their business – had threatened legal action.

Any Judicial Review could add 6 months to the delivery timetable for the stadium project.  This would effectively put back a completion date to mid-2019. Whether the sports clubs can survive until that time may be a matter of speculation.

We have recorded on many occasions, since funding for a new stadium was found in 2010, that the Council should have got on with the project then rather than progressively to try to add, high risk, commercial – and social – elements.

This has produced a complex scheme which it is easy for opponents to delay.

Meanwhile the administrative costs of the project are eating away at the funds available for the development itself – producing a potential crisis for taxpayers in the City, not to say a further period of uncertainty for sports fans.

Lendal Bridge scandal tails off. Officials repay irregular payments. Gloom on Stadium risks

Lendal Bridge and Coppergate repayment process to end

Lendal bridge noticeThe deadline for applying for a refund in relation to receiving a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) during the Lendal Bridge trial traffic regulation and the Coppergate traffic regulation enforcement by automatic number plate recognition will come to an end on midnight 31 March 2016.

City of York Council wrote to all 27,000 people in February last year, who at the time had not currently claimed their PCN repayment, to notify them direct of the process. In addition a press release giving notice of the ending of the process was issued on 12 February 2016.

The decision to extend the repayment deadline to 31 March 2016 was agreed by the previous Cabinet, at a meeting held on 30 July 2015.

The council will publish the total cost of the Lendal Bridge and Coppergate settlement process after March 2016.

However it is expected that, when all expenditure is included, the reckless Lendal Bridge/Coppergate trial will have cost over £3 million in abortive payments.

To apply for a refund, or to find out more information about the repayment process, search ‘Lendal Bridge’ or ‘Coppergate’ at: Please note that the application process will not be available after 31 March.

The council will assist anyone in person in the council’s West Offices or over the phone (01904 551550) to help them through the process if they have no access to the internet and apply before 31 March.

Meanwhile the future of camera enforcement, of access restrictions on Coppergate, remains unclear

Officials to repay £9000

City of York trading hompageThe Council was told yesterday that officials had agreed to replay salary bonuses that were subject to an unfavourable Audit report.

Unfortunately the Council did nothing which might restore public confidence in its processes and governance structures.

Accountability meetings continue to be held in private.

Community Stadium

The Council has agreed a £14 million taxpayers subsidy for the Community Stadium Project. The money will be borrowed. In effect, the taxpayer will have to find £1 million a year in debt charges to prop up a project which in 2011 would have cost the public purse nothing. The Council will have to find the interest payments by cutting further into basic public services standards.

Community Stadium Nov 2014The project remains very risky.

Despite professional advice that the City has sufficient public swimming pools, a new one is being incorporated into the scheme. The sports centre operators – having lost their core customer base – face an uphill struggle to establish a new facility in a crowded market place.  It they fail to do so, then the whole project would collapse.

The Council is also underwriting the lease on part of the commercial development. Another risk for taxpayers.

There are some good features. The – unsubsidised – provision of an IMAX cinema will be a first for the City and a welcome addition to the leisure options available to residents.

But it remains unclear how the football and rugby clubs will exploit their new home to maximise non match-day revenue. The only figures released suggest that they will pay relatively low rent levels, but the clubs will need more opportunities than that to be successful.

So, all in all, a deeply flawed business plan – dumped  on an unsuspecting population in 2012 – lurches forward to an expected 2019 completion.

The opportunity – available last May – to stand back and adopt a more cautious approach was lost.

Most taxpayers will be watching progress from now on with deep concern.

Strong project management will be needed if there is to be an end product the City can afford.



York Community Stadium

Community Stadium Nov 2014It is more than slightly ironic that Labour Councillors are now calling for reassurances about the opening date for the Community Stadium

During their tenure of office – which ended in May 2015 – they were repeatedly told that a £37 million design/build/operate project which incorporated most of the Councils other (building based) leisure activities – and which introduced yet more retail floor space into the Monks Cross area – was over ambitious.

The glossy brochures produced to sell the plan convinced some. Many residents remained sceptical.

Labour had inherited in 2011 a project that was “ready to go”.  Planning permission for the John  Lewis development was needed to provide the essential £15 million capital but the deal for a new stadium had been struck a year earlier. A 6000 seater stadium on the “Chesterfield model” was ready and waiting to be built. An opening date of 2013 was achievable.

The (right) decision of the new incoming administration in 2015 to reprieve the Yearsley Swimming Pool (which enjoys steady but unprofitable use levels) meant that a decision had to be taken to remove the additional pool from the stadium contract.

This didn’t happen as, ostensibly, it would have meant re-tendering the work – and another 2 years on the EU procurement merry go round.

Now it seems that the promised final “go ahead” for the contract – due in March – may be further delayed.

We warned that an opening date of July 2017 was optimistic.

It now looks to be impossible.

See also