YORK’S community stadium project has been hit by a fresh delay – and is now unlikely to be complete until the start of 2016.

The 6,000-seater new home for York City FC and York City Knights, on the existing Huntington Stadium site at Monks Cross, was originally expected to be ready for the 2014/15 season, but this was later pushed back a year.

City of York Council has now said delays on a neighbouring £90 million shopping complex after protected great crested newts were found at the site have had a “knock-on” effect for the sports facilities.

The stadium is now scheduled for completion in January 2016, rather than the previous summer as planned.

The Press understands City will now not play their first match there until the 2016/17 season kicks off, as they would not switch grounds during a season.

The Knights, who were set to start a two-year groundshare at City’s Bootham Crescent home next year, will now stay at Huntington Stadium in 2014.

When the newts were found in January on the retail site, where work on John Lewis, Marks & Spencer and Next stores started last month, the council said this would not hold up the stadium and community facilities.

But it has now said the delays were inevitable.

Darren Richardson, the council’s director of city and environmental services, said the Knights would have “continuity” by staying at Huntington Stadium next year.

He said “ecological reasons” held up the shopping scheme, which had “inevitably affected the stadium build timescales” and delayed the start of the procurement process.

He said: “All aspects of the project continue to progress and we’re currently in the competitive dialogue stage of the process.

“We have spoken to the project partners throughout and informed them of the possible delay beyond summer 2015. We will be able to confirm further detail once this process is complete.”

Sophie Hicks, City’s communications and community director, said: “We have been informed by the council that York City Knights will not be playing at Bootham Crescent next season – they will be remaining at Huntington Stadium – and the timescale for the stadium is now January 2016.”

Knights chairman John Guildford said it was “disruption we could have done without”. Neil Hunter, chairman of City of York Athletic Club, which is due to move from Huntington Stadium to York Sport Village, said: “I will be interested to know what this means for the club.”

Coun Ian Gillies, the council’s Conservative group leader, said the new delays were “no surprise” and he did not believe the newts had held up the stadium scheme.

He said: “Not only is the business plan for the stadium project flawed, so is the procurement process, which should be purely to design and build the stadium and not to also operate it – this must be causing the council’s cabinet acute embarrassment.”

Coun Sonja Crisp, cabinet member for leisure, said Labour was committed to the stadium while the Tories had opposed it. She said: “With such a major project, there will always be issues arising which put pressure on the completion date, but any extension of the timescale is nothing to do with the procurement process.”

The council is holding a “procurement” exercise to find a firm to design, build and operate the stadium. The shops element is providing the funding for the stadium.