THE long-awaited Community Stadium in York is a step closer to reality after council chiefs gave the project the green light tonight (Thursday, July 27).

At a packed meeting in West Offices, the City of York Council's Executive unanimously approved a report which recommended the council enter legal agreements over the new stadium and leisure facilities with Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL).

GLL has put out tenders for construction firms, which have reduced the cost of the project by £2.6 million, and the report confirmed the financial future of Yearsley Swimming Pool, which had been under threat, for the near future.

Council deputy chief executive Ian Floyd said there would be a need in seven years time "to potentially review the funding position", and "a lot could change between then and now", but current plans meant the pool would be viable for the next seven years.

Fiona Evans, from the Yearsley Pool Action Group, said she was delighted with the agreement, which would "secure the pool’s long-term future and maintain professional service standards".

She said: "We hope that tonight’s decision will finally remove the sword of Damocles that has hung unfairly over Yearsley Pool for the past two decades.

"This unique and enchanting long-distance pool has faithfully served the York and wider community for over a century. It is not only a cherished piece of heritage; it has and continues to provide a vital service to public health, fitness, water safety and wide ranging aquatic sports."

Councillor Nigel Ayre, executive member for culture, leisure and tourism, said the new stadium would potentially run with a budget of "something like £350,000 to £400,000 a year", compared to the figure of roughly £700,000 that the council had previously budgeted in 2009 for annual running, and the authority recognised it would be a massive asset to the community as well as York City FC and York City Knights.

Councillor Denise Craghill asked for assurance that the reduction in cost of the project would not reduce the quality of the build, and was told the reduction had come about through "increased competition".

Mr Floyd said: "A number of people were very keen to get this as they see this scheme as nationally significant, and a number bidders were extremely excited by the scheme and wanted it on their CV."

The meeting also heard NHS bosses had just approved a proposition to enter into agreement with the council for a lease at the site, but details were not yet available on what facilities they would bring to the site.

Work is set to start on the site in October, with teams expected to play their first matches there in 2019.