Fears over York stadium timetable dismissed by council

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POLITICAL opponents have claimed a Yorkshire city’s long-awaited sports stadium may not be ready in time for the start of the 2016 football season amid increasing concern over the development’s future.

Liberal Democrat councillors in York revealed yesterday there is fresh doubt about whether the 6,000-seat stadium will be ready for the start of the football season starting in August 2016.

The stadium, which will be the new home of York City Football Club and York City Knights rugby league team, has been beset by delays and Lib Dems fear it might not be finished in July 2016, the projected completion date.

York Council has stressed the stadium remains on track to be completed before the football season kicks off in 2016. But Lib Dem councillor Ian Cuthbertson claimed it remained to be seen whether the stadium would be completed on the timetable issued by the Labour-run council.

“If it is completed in July (2016) it could be played on in August but the history of this project is not that good,” he said.

Coun Cuthbertson, who is Lib Dem spokesman for leisure, culture and tourism, added: “Labour inherited a great opportunity to deliver a community stadium on time and on budget, but their management of this project has been shambolic from the start. The stadium is now over two years behind schedule and it will end up costing taxpayers far more than planned.

“Despite the promises that Labour made in January, we now know that the stadium won’t be ready for the 2016 rugby league season and it is doubtful whether it will be ready for the 2016-17 football season. It is also worrying that key decisions on the stadium and the current financial plans are being made behind-closed-doors and away from proper public scrutiny.”

Former Lib Dem councillor Steve Galloway, the authority’s leader between 2003 and 2008, wrote on his blog that completing the stadium to the timetable appeared to be problematic.

“March 2015 was the absolute firm date given by the present council leader for a start on site – but that now looks increasingly unlikely. Construction work will take two years, so there is now doubt about whether the stadium will be ready for the start of the 2016 football season.”

A spokesman for the Labour group stressed building work will begin in March next year, and said: “Liberal Democrats gave a manifesto commitment in 2007 to deliver a new community stadium by 2011 and this was yet another Lib Dem broken promise. They didn’t even achieve funding or planning permission.

“Since winning control of the council from Liberal Democrat and Conservative councillors, Labour has achieved planning permission for building the new stadium, received money for the delivery of the new stadium and is currently in contract negotiations with those who will construct and run the new stadium.”

A council spokeswoman said the stadium remained on course to be open in time for the 2016-17 football season.