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  Important backers had withdrawn from the project and the Council was struggling to pre-let some of the commercial floor-space.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: http://www.york.gov.uk/. 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

 

York Council paid out over £1/2 million for Knights training and match-day facilities

A response on a Freedom of Information web site has revealed that the York Council has paid £400,000 to St John’s University.

In return the University  agreed to allow the Knights Rugby team to train, and play its second string fixtures, at the new Haxby Road sports ground.

£200,000 was paid out last year, despite an impasse developing during which the Knights were barred from using the facility.

They eventually gained access only 6 weeks ago.

A second installment of £200,000 has been paid during the current financial year.

It is unclear whether the payments will also facilitate access by York residents to the Haxby Road facilities.

Four weeks ago St Johns University announced that it was withdrawing from participation in the Community Stadium project at Monks Cross

The new information also reveals that payments of £42,168 were made in 2014/15 and £64,000 so far this year to allow the Knights to play their first team fixtures at Bootham Crescent.

No such fixtures have yet been played at the venue with the Knights following a largely nomadic existence for most of their current season, before eventually ending up at Heworth.

If they win their next fixture against Swinton, they might have a home tie in the playoffs… raising again the possibility of a move to Bootham Crescent.

Clubs hiring an average football stadium might expect to pay around £30,000 a year in rent. The figures for Bootham Crescent, therefore, look relatively high – although it would have to cover the cost of changing the layout from football to rugby, not to mention the issue of off the field income.

The expenditure of £506,168 is part of a total of £3.9 million spent so far by the Council on the Community Stadium project. The £3.9 million also includes around £1 million spent on improving athletics facilities at the University of York.

Most of the money has come from a “Section 106” payment made by the developers of the John Lewis store site at Monks Cross.

Knights costs

Community Stadium “set up” costs hit £3.9 million

Over £963,000 spent to date on new athletics facilities at the University

The City of York Council has spent £3.875 million since 2008 trying to get the new Community Stadium off the ground.

Of this, £2.1 million has already been spent on project costs.

As expected the bill for the new athletics facility at the University is set to top £1 million.

Most of the expenditure has been capitalised – meaning that it may be deducted from the £15 million Section 106 monies already paid to the Council by the developers of the adjacent Vanguard development.

Still the figures are a matter of concern as no building works have actually yet started and a final contract decision is not now due to be made until January 2016.

The figures – revealed in a response to a Freedom of Information request – include £506,168 spent on “Interim training/match facilities” The precise make up of this expenditure has not yet been provided.

The information has been released at a time when one of the core tenants for the community facilities being provided at Monks Cross has withdrawn. St John’s say that their new sports development on Haxby Road – where the Knight Rugby Team now train – meets al their sporting needs.

The Council have remained tight lipped about how much rental they hope to gain, from the lease of community facilities sapce, to organisations like the NHS and the Libraries social enterprise company.

Without this income the running costs of the stadium could fall on taxpayers.

Community Stadium costs to 18th Aug 2015

Community Stadium – still unanswered questions

As we predicted several months ago, the new Community Stadium will not open until 2017 at the earliest.

An update report (click) has been published by the Council. It will be considered next Thursday.

Community Stadium costs funding specification

The Council has confirmed that there have been no changes to the specification, costings and funding sources agreed by the, then Labour dominated, Council in September 2014 (see above).

The demolition of the existing stadium and Waterworld building is to be fast tracked – as is an extension to the Park and Ride site – at a cost of £2 million. The Council intends to undertake some advanced design work on steel work and piling.

The Council have announced – for the fifth time – that the Yearsley pool has been “saved” although they remain coy about the source of any ongoing subsidy that will be required.

Perhaps surprisingly they continue to claim that the £12 million replacement for Waterworld will go ahead despite growing evidence that demand for public  swimming provision is the City has now been fully satisfied.

A contract for the stadium scheme is now expected to be awarded in January 2016. In the meantime the Council will attempt to negotiate away covenants on the use of the land – thought to have been inserted by a previous owner (work which should have been done three years ago)

Worryingly it appears that some of the proposed tenants for premises in the stadium complex have not yet signed up.

The Council are still forecasting a 12 to 14 month construction time table for the Stadium (Feb 2016 – April 2017). We doubt very much that a stadium of this size and complexity can be built, fitted out and – critically – get an appropriate safety certificate in that timescale.

 It would be a major achievement to have it ready for the beginning of the 2017/18 football season (August 2017).

So a scheme that was in 2010 to be fully funded from S106 contributions from the adjacent Vanguard development, now looks set to cost taxpayers £8 million.

The hard work in finding funding for the stadium had been done by the time that Labour took control of the Council in May 2011. They dithered over the specification for the stadium for over a year before finally securing outline planning permission for the retail enabler.  

A bizarre design/build/operate contract was then drawn up which fell foul of European procurement rules, adding two years to the process

Planning permission for the new stadium and commercial complex was finally granted only in April this year and it was June before the Secretary of State indicated that he would not ”call in” the scheme.Community Stadium Nov 2014

There is a lot of evidence that some Labour Councillors simply didn’t understand the risks that were being taken. Indeed yesterday one of their politicians took to the media to announce – completely erroneously – that the scheme would now cost £41 million (not £37m).

Unfortunately – for taxpayers – there is no way back to the 2010 scheme which would have seen a stadium, athletics facility and some community space built within a £15 million cost envelope. It would have been completed  in 2014 at the latest.

Now we will have to wait another 5 months before the final costs are known and confirmation provided that all the proposed tenants have all signed on the dotted line

Delay in Knights use of Bootham Crescent?

Holes for rugby posts may be round………or possibly square

A couple of weeks ago the Knights signed an agreement with the York Council which not only confirmed that the Community Stadium would be their new home when it opens in 2017 but that, in the interim, they would have the use of Bootham Crescent.

The original planning permission for the new stadium had required that an alternative rugby ground be made available before the old Huntington Stadium was closed.

click for update

click for update

The move to Bootham Crescent seems to have run into two problems.

Claims have been made on social media that the owners of the stadium have not yet submitted an application for a new safety certificate. Apparently this is needed to allow rugby matches to be staged there (although why rugby should raise different spectator safety concerns from a football match will be a mystery to most casual observers).

This is separate from the licensing application for the ground which is being considered today and which we understand is not directly linked to the rugby clubs move.

Once a safety certificate has been sought there no reason why the Council should not issue it in a matter of a few days.

It appears also the four holes, into which rugby posts will be inserted on match days (they are grass covered at other times), have not yet been dug. Some sources say that this may take around two weeks to resolve. Contractor Bernard Cribbins is apparently expected on site shortly.

The Rugby season finishes at the end of September when the play offs are scheduled to take place. Some Knights fans – with the team playing well and currently in second place in their division – are keen to ensure that the larger crowds expected for the run in can be accommodated.

Planning condition

Planning condition

Use of Bootham Crescent seems to be the only local option available to satisfy this reasonable wish.

The Council signed off in January as “complete” the planning condition for the new Community Stadium (see right) which required an alternative venue to be made available for rugby fixtures.

NB An update report on progress with the Community Stadium is due to be considered by the Council’s Executive on 27th August

Community Stadium opening slips to 2017, cost pressures mounting

While no one really believed that the new Community stadium would be completed by July 2016, it now seems likely that the project will slip by a further 12 months.

There are two problems:

Issues with the Rugby Club also rumble on in the background.08-27-2014-08-48-27-555

Since 2010, when funding for a replacement stadium was secured, progress has been slow. Essential planning permissions for the enabling development were secured in 2012  but, rather than getting on with building the stadium on the “Chesterfield” model, the then Labour controlled Council decided to outsource all building based leisure facilities (including the Monks Cross complex) as part of a single contract.

This involved a laborious 24 month tendering process which was needed to meet EU regulations.

Ironically it was this delay that appears to have scuppered the deal.

The £12 million available in 2012  for the project would have bought a good quality stadium and to a design which would have guaranteed some non match day income. No taxpayer’s subsidy would have been required although the Council had allocated a £4 million fund which – if drawn down – would have been repaid from stadium income

There was little building activity taking place in 2012 when the country was still in the grips of the recession. Work was scarce so tender prices were keen

In the end GLL were declared the preferred bidder in 2014. GLL had been running the Huntington Stadium, Waterworld and the adjacent fitness facilities for several years.

However they had sought interim subsidies to keep the facilities going. No usage figures for Waterworld were published by the Council at the time although these are now expected to emerge into the pubic arena.

Despite the exiting stadium being abandoned and Waterworld closing last year, financial issues continued.
(more…)

Yearsley Pool may get gym extension

Yearsley Pool

Yearsley Pool

Council papers, being considered at a meeting being held on 7th June, suggest that a gym may be constructed next to the Yearsley swimming pool.

The pool had been under threat following an announcement by the last Labour administration that it planned to switch swimming provision to a new location at the Community Stadium. A new pool there would have replaced both “Waterworld” (which has already closed) and Yearsley.

Now a scrutiny committee report has revealed that Nestle – who own the car park and land next to the Yearsley pool – may construct a fitness facility there for use by its employees.

It was the lack of an additional – non swimming – income stream which led to Yearsley requiring a £300,000 a year taxpayers subsidy to keep operating.

What impact the gym plan may have on the viability of the stadium pool and fitness facility remains to be seen.

The scrutiny committee, set up to look into ways of reducing the Yearsley subsidy, will have to be reconstituted if it is to continue. Several of its original members were not re-elected at the recent Council elections.

The coalition agreement, on the policies that will be pursued by the Council during the next 4 years, guarantees the future of the Yearsley Pool.

York Community Stadium – archaeology dig

Archaeologists have found remains of significance during the York Theatre Royal refurbishment. It means that  the reopening of the Theatre will be delayed.

The annual pantomime (DickWhittington and his Meerkat!) is being moved to the Railway Museum (click)

Another major dig is taking place at the site of the planned new Community Stadium.

Outline of roman camp revealed

Outline of roman camp revealed

There is likely to be some concern about what impact this work will have on the practical start date for the construction of the stadium.

The project is already 2 years behind schedule.

At Huntington, archaeologists know broadly what they are likely to find. A roman “training” camp was revealed a few years ago – by chance – during a routine aerial survey of the area. Its existence had been unknown when the original stadium was built. While some artifacts may be unearthed it seems unlikely that the dig will overrun its 4 week timetable.

Updates on the work can be found by clicking here

The decision notice on the planning application is not due to issued until July and confirmation of contractors will not be possible until then in any event.

The open day for potential sub contractors will take place on 1st June (see below).

Meet the buyer event

Meet the buyer event

We expect an early statement from the new York Council about the Knights Rugby Team and their re-engagement with the project.

How quickly it becomes clear, whether the promised July 2016 stadium completion date will be met, remains to be seen.

Projects of this scale would normally take at least 18 months to construct, fit out and pass through various accreditation processes.