Major step forward in bid to bring football back to resort

PLANS to build a multi-million pound new home for Scarborough's football club have moved a massive step closer as the search for a developer to spearhead the scheme has been launched.

Scarborough Borough Council has announced that it has started the official process to find a private developer to create a new leisure village in the resort, which will also provide a ground for the town's football team.

Council leader Tom Fox heralded the start of the formal procurement process as "hugely important" to boosting sports provision in Scarborough after grave concerns have been expressed over the state of the existing ageing facilities.

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Coun Fox said: "This is the first serious step towards making this become a reality. We have now crossed the starting line, and we will embark on discussions with potential developers.

"I am extremely pleased that we are now in the position to begin the official procurement process, and I am looking forward to taking the project forward."

Scarborough's football fans have been battling to keep the sport alive in the town after one of the oldest clubs in the country was consigned to history when it was wound up three years ago.

Scarborough FC's 128-year history ended in June 2007 when it became a casualty of crippling 2.5m debts and the failure of the board and the council to agree terms on lifting restrictions preventing the sale of the McCain Stadium to house-builders.

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The town's new fledgling football team, Scarborough Athletic FC, has been forced to conduct "home" games at Bridlington, 22 miles and more than 30 minutes away by road.

However, it is now hoped that the development of the leisure village will be completed within three years and football will be able to return to Scarborough for the 2014/15 season.

Coun Fox is due to outline details of the procurement process to create the new leisure village at a full council meeting today.

He added: "Nothing has been ruled out, and nothing has been ruled in. This is what the whole procurement process is about, and we are looking forward to seeing the proposals which we receive."

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The Yorkshire Post revealed in June that a council report had warned that most of the authority's existing sporting facilities cannot cater for the broad range of uses essential to building up a solid customer base and putting them on a sound financial footing.

It is hoped that a private sector partner will now be recruited to develop a mixed use complex with a broad enough appeal to make the scheme pay its way.

The council has stressed that it does not have any capital to help finance the project, although it will provide the land for development. Four sites are in the running at Filey Road, Seamer Road, part of Weaponness and Ryndle Crescent.

The deadline for expressions of interest has been set for October 4 and the council will then draw up a shortlist of bidders before a major public consultation is launched.

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The McCain ground was lost to football despite the decision by Coun Fox to exercise the right to buy back the site from the liquidators in 2007.

By the time a fair market price of 1.3m was agreed and paid in December 2008, the Seamer Road ground had suffered so much from theft and vandalism it would have cost 1m to make it fit for purpose again.

Rather than place a financial burden on the football clubs that would use the stadium and risk them going bust as well, the council decided to redevelop the land and look elsewhere for a site for a new stadium.

Ever since January last year, it has been conducting behind-the-scenes investigations to ensure the huge scheme can move forward in a measured way.