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Community stadium ‘secrecy’ slammed
A BLUEPRINT for how York’s proposed community stadium will operate has been rubber-stamped – amid claims too much information is being kept under wraps.
The business case, which will now form part of Oakgate (Monks Cross) Ltd’s planning application for a 6,000-seater venue on the site of the existing Huntington Stadium alongside a retail complex and outlines how the £19.2 million stadium scheme will be paid for, came under the spotlight at a full meeting of City of York Council last night.
Opposition parties claimed a lack of transparency surrounds the project because the full document is not being made public, due to much of its information being “commercially sensitive”.
The Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Green groups said many of the private details should be released as the council is borrowing £4 million towards the scheme.
But the ruling Labour group’s council majority meant the business case was still voted through. However, rather than being formally "approved", as originally intended, it was officially "noted" to allow councillors who may sit on the planning committee which makes a decision on the scheme to take part in last night's debate.
Tory leader Coun Ian Gillies said he had been unable to discuss some of the business case’s content with his own party.
He said: “There is already an air of suspicion surrounding this project, and if large amounts of public money are being spent, the public deserve to know why – confidentiality does not hold water.”
Coun Carol Runciman, who leads the Lib Dems, said she feared “behind-closed-doors decision-making”.
Green leader Coun Andy D’Agorne said there was “no justification” for the extent of the confidential information.
However, council leader James Alexander said rival parties had wasted opportunities to scrutinise the scheme.
He said: “It’s important that when we are doing business with external organisations and information is commercially sensitive, we should respect that and not jeopardise their viability for the sake of political points-scoring.”
The confidentiality issue led to the media and the public being excluded from part of last night’s debate.
As well as the council’s contribution towards the stadium, which would house York City FC and York City Knights, and the project’s community facilities, £14.85 million would come from Oakgate and at least £350,000 from City, which could rise depending on the sale price of the club’s Bootham Crescent ground.
Last night’s meeting also saw a 2,870-name petition calling for Beckfield Lane waste recycling centre – which is set to close next month to save £130,000 over two years as part of council budget cuts – to remain open submitted to the council.
Labour has said it would cost £2.5 million to modernise and opening times will be extended at other waste facilities.
Lib Dem councillor Ann Reid, who handed in the petition, said the closure would force residents to travel further to dispose of their rubbish, leading to more fly-tipping and falling recycling levels, and it should be postponed until it had been debated by all councillors.