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New twist in plan for athletics track in York
A NEW athletics track will not be built at a York sports complex after council chiefs revealed they are switching sites to cut costs.
City of York Athletic Club’s new home will now be at the University of York’s original Heslington West sports centre, rather than the nearby £10 million York Sport Village. A new county-standard track will be completed by the end of 2014, replacing the existing cinder track.
The Press understands drainage and floodplain issues at the Sport Village site, on the new Heslington East campus, contributed to the decision.
City of York Council and the club - which will move between seasons - said it would boost local athletics, but opposition councillors claimed it raised questions about York’s community stadium project, which includes relocating the track from Huntington Stadium, and said the decision was made “behind closed doors”.
Athletic club chairman Neil Hunter said: “Confirmation the athletics stadium will definitely be delivered in 2014 is very welcome news."
He said the club had increased participation in anticipation of the new track and space at its existing base was now at a premium, saying: “The move cannot come soon enough.”
The council said choosing the university’s original Heslington West campus would mean “considerable cost savings” and more facilities. A spokeswoman said feasibility studies at Heslington East identified risks, including increasing costs.
She said the Heslington West plan had been identified as a viable alternative and would deliver a better scheme, with shorter timescales, and best value for money for taxpayers.
She said the new site would support the club and give excellent community access to the full facilities at the site, the track would be better quality than would have been possible at Heslington East, and a field athletics area inside the track was also now possible.
A clubhouse and new sand-based football/hockey pitch will be built next to the site to replace the existing pitch.
Coun Sonja Crisp, cabinet member for leisure, said the development would support the growth of athletics in York for years. Professor Brian Cantor, the university’s Vice Chancellor, said the track would improve sporting facilities for students and help promote health and wellbeing among residents.
Conservative leader Coun Ian Gillies wished the athletic club well but said the change of plan showed Labour’s “total incompetence” financially. He said: “I believe it has finally realised the stadium project’s financial model does not stack up, and an integral part of the Sport Village has suddenly been taken away.”
Liberal Democrat councillor Nigel Ayre said the decision was made without public or cross-party political scrutiny, and there were "unanswered questions", including whether the change of site suggested "budget problems" in the overall stadium project finances. He also questioned whether residents' access to the facilities would be "as good as promised".
The council said the costs of the new and original project plans were confidential, and the decision to change plan was made by the project board with full backing from its partner organisations. It said the Sport Village had "an incredibly strong offer", even with the track no longer being based there.
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