Inquiry call halts stadium scheme

A GOLDEN opportunity to regenerate the rundown Odsal stadium in Bradford has vanished, after developers pulled out of the 60m scheme.

Leeds-based developers Sterling Capitol blamed the move on the Government’s decision to hold a public inquiry into the plans, which have been in the balance for months.

The news comes as a huge blow to the city, which is bidding to become European Capital of Culture in 2008.

It leaves both of Bradford’s major sporting clubs in crisis – Bradford City Football Club in administration and the Bulls rugby league team without a stadium to measure up to Super League standards.

Chief executive of Sterling Capitol, Martin Croxon, said the additional costs and uncertainties created by the public inquiry had forced them to pull the plug on the plans.

Tesco, which had planned to build a massive superstore at the site, signalled that its confidence in the scheme had been shaken four months ago when the Government announced the plans were to be the subject of a public inquiry.

Mr Croxon said: “Sterling Capitol has made it clear from the outset that a call-in inquiry would jeopardise the development proposals.

“It is very, very sad, both for the Bulls and for Bradford, that this golden opportunity has been compromised by the Government office’s indecision.”

Bradford Council owns the stadium and leases it to the club, and chief executive Ian Stewart said: “The council is deeply disappointed that the developers have decided not to go ahead with the Odsal scheme.

“We have worked extremely hard with the developers, Tesco and Bradford Bulls to make a strong case for this redevelopment, but the Government’s decision to hold a public inquiry has clearly added to the difficulty of delivering the project.”

The Bulls have already moved out of the stadium to Valley Parade to make way for the development to get under way.

The chief executive of the Bradford Bulls, Abi Ekoku, said the club’s future would be discussed at a board meeting on Monday.

He added: “We will look at all possibilities and options. It is a very bad time for sport in the city. The size of our disappointment cannot possibly be over-estimated.”

The plans, which included a 26,000-seater stadium, a superstore and the promise of 1,600 jobs, had met some opposition from local traders including supermarket giant Morrisons.

Sports Minister Richard Caborn gave his strong support to the scheme on a visit to the stadium, but the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, Stephen Byers, called the plans in.

Bradford Council has been struggling to get a regeneration scheme for Odsal off the ground for years.

The latest plan, in December 1998, saw plans for a 200m national “superdome” scrapped after eight years of negotiations.