ALMOST £5 million was spent by City of York Council in the past year alone on the city's community stadium project - without a brick being laid.

A further £19 million will be spent this financial year, but the site remains derelict.

The capital spending is revealed today by The Press as the authority prepares for a legal challenge that is set to cause a further delay in the start of construction work at the Monks Cross site. Work had been due to start this summer.

York Press:

The stadium site, pictured this week

Figures show that the total capital spend in 2015/16 came to £4.95 million. This money went on a range of services from legal and design to archaeological and demolition, but also expansion of the Monks Cross Park & Ride site and a new athletics track at the University of York.

Various legal and consultancy firms have been paid thousands of pounds already.

Council documents show that in 2015/16 alone:

  • Grenwich Leisure Ltd were paid £416,684 in early design fees
  • legal advisors Bond Dickinson were paid £189,121
  • Legacy Habitat Management Ltd were paid £2,155 for installing and maintaining newt fencing
  • York Archaeological Trust were paid £31,180 for their dig at the site
  • building consultants Desco were paid £11,340
  • engineering consultancy 3e was paid £18,252 for technical advice
  • Savills were paid £23,588 for commercial advice
  • FMG Consulting Ltd were paid £8,000 for "leisure commercial advice"
  • Bluestone Design Ltd were paid £1,950 for work on the stadium website and photographs
  • DLA Architecture were paid £9,102.61.
  • Peter Groves, described as technical advisor for the project, was paid £13,862

The payments were revealed after The Press used the little-known Audit Commission Act, which forces councils to open their accounts for full public inspection for a set period every summer.

A council spokeswoman said the expenditure reflected 'significant progress made this last year on the Community Stadium and Leisure Facility project.'

She said: "In addition to the Community Stadium, this project includes a wide-range of other schemes, which has delivered a new athletics track (circa £1.5m), expanded the Monks Cross Park&Ride site (circa £1.611m) and has contributed towards a new 3G sports pitch at York St John University (£200k).

"Expenditure also includes completing onsite preparatory (circa £112k) and demolition works of the old stadium and sports centre (circa £417k) and extensive legal, design and archaeological costs."

York Press:

Dame Kelly Holmes officially opened the new athletics facilities at the University of York in April

She said all funding had been agreed through an 'open and transparent process at public meetings, including an executive report in March which provided full and detailed information relating to the finalisation and signing of the long-term contract.

“The council remains fully committed to delivering the project, which will provide a wide-range of significant benefits for the city.”

Asked where the money came from, she said the council borrowed money to fund its forecast expenditure but did not take out specific loans for specific projects. "There is sufficient funding in place to cover costs incurred to date."

York Press:

The community stadium site

Asked if the money had to be re-paid and if so, by whom, she said: "The cost of borrowing is a charge to the revenue account which is funded by council tax and other council income."

The Press revealed last week that lawyers for Vue Cinema at Clifton Moor had lodged an application for judicial review of the council's planning decision in favour of a larger cinema multiplex next to the stadium than was originally approved.

Vue has declined to comment on its legal challenge but its agents argued earlier this summer that the cinema expansion was so great that it should not be dealt with as 'minor design amendments' and warranted a new planning application.

Another York cinema, Reel, warned then that if the planning committee made a decision on the application, Reel could challenge its validity in the courts.

The council spokeswoman said the current approved budget for the stadium in 2016/17 was £19 million, but the period required for the judicial review and its potential impact meant it wasn't possible to produce a meaningful forecast of expenditure at this time.

A spokesperson for Wrenbridge said this week it was committed to the stadium project and believed it was viable, 'subject to the small amendments to the cinema that were granted planning permission.'

They added: "As a procedural challenge has been raised, this is now the subject of a legal process and so we won’t be commenting further at this time.”

Independent councillor Mark Warters, a strong critic of the stadium scheme who highlighted the £4.95 million bill, said: "I find this spending absolutely shocking, when the council is having to make cuts in essential services."

He called for the authority to make use of the delay caused by the judicial review application to take stock and and review where the project was going.