Go-ahead urged for 7,400-place stand at Headingley stadium

PLANNING chiefs are recommending that councillors approve a scheme to build a new stand for rugby fans in Leeds.

The South Stand at the Headingley Carnegie stadium is home to the most fanatical Leeds Rhinos fans but the ground also hosts Leeds Carnegie matches in rugby union, as well as international rugby league matches.

Its condition has deteriorated in recent years and its capacity reduced for safety reasons from 8,000 to 6,000.

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Under the proposals, the stand will be demolished and replaced with a single tiered building similar in design to the new Carnegie Stand on the east side of the ground with an increased capacity of 7,400. However the total ground capacity will only rise from 20,000 to 20,850 due to the loss of 550 spectator places on the old Western Terrace to make way for the new structure.

The new stand will hold a TV gantry under its roof and have additional facilities within a new concourse with refreshment areas under the stand, changing areas for pre-match entertainers, referee changing rooms and facilities for the groundsman.

It also involves the building of a new turnstile from St Michael’s Lane. The existing 100 car parking spaces will be retained.

A report by Leeds City Council’s planning chiefs, due to be considered at a meeting on Thursday describes the existing South Stand, which has had significant funds spent on maintenance, as being in a “poor state of repair”.

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“It is recognised the existing stand is in need of being replaced to afford spectators, fans and the ground with facilities that modern sporting stadiums require,” said the report. “In addition the design and appearance of the existing stand is rather poor, particularly when it is viewed next to the new east stand.”

It said the rugby club was an important asset to the city “both in its status as being internationally recognised due to the success of the team and hosting international fixtures that are viewed worldwide but also in relation to the positive community work that the club does in relation to sports, education, cultural and social development enterprises throughout the city”.

The scheme was drawn up in March last year and a public consultation was held with local people and fans in April when the capacity was lower at 6,500 and the stand stood at a lower height than the latest proposal, which means it will be higher than the existing stand.

The report said 32 objections had so far been received from householders, residents associations and the South Stand Alliance.

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These raise a series of concerns over the increased capacity and height of the building, loss of sunlight to neighbouring properties, increased noise and its appearance including lack of landscaping.

In his objection, Coun Martin Hamilton (Lib Dem, Headingley) raised concerns about the size of the building, which is considerably higher than the existing stadium, and described the proposed landscaping as “completely inadequate”.

He also wanted a noise and nuisance impact assessment amid concerns the new structure would increase match day noise.

He added: “I should add that the stadium is guilty of bad faith in presenting a stand with a lower capacity at the consultation events but submitting an application for a larger structure. This does nothing to build trust between the rugby club and the local community.”

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The report also said highways officers had objected to the proposals as no travel plans or plan for handling the increased crowds had been drawn up.

Planning officials said the proposal was “acceptable in principle” and in line with policies to improve the stadium and the image of the city internationally.

They said the design of the stand would reduce the “over-bearing” impact on neighbouring residents and enhance the appearance of the building.