THE dream of a new community stadium for York has cleared its first hurdle, and received top-level backing.

Ruling councillors yesterday approved the outline business case for the stadium, allowing officials to start searching for sites. The decision came less than an hour after the vision was outlined to the sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe, representatives from the York’s top sports clubs and leading national organisations at a top-level meeting in the Mansion House.

Mr Sutcliffe said: “They are touching the right buttons in terms of sustainability and teaming up with education and health organisations.”

Philip Woodward, from the Football Foundation, also said a decision had been made to treat York City Football Club as a member of the Football League when considering its application for support.

Tim Atkins, stadium project manager at City of York Council, told the assembled guests that the stadium had to be more than a sports ground. He said: “We need a commercial use as an anchor.”

Representatives from York St John University and the NHS said they were interested, while Sophie Hicks, community and communications director for the football club, said there was already commercial interest.

“We are being approached by lots of hotel chains saying they would like to be involved,” she said.

Mr Atkins said York’s sporting facilities were currently on a par with Ebbsfleet, Barrow and Hunslet, but should instead aim to emulate cities such as Norwich, Reading and Portsmouth.

He called for a “sports village” including a stadium, an athletics track, educational and health facilities, possibly a swimming pool, and eco-friendly features.

Matthew Carter, regional development manager for the Rugby Football Union (RFU) said: “I am very excited about everything I have heard.”

Julie Hutton, head of strategy at Yorkshire Forward, said of Mr Atkins’ work: “Your approach is the right one, trying to bring together all organisations.”

Mr Woodward said: “Our trustees have made a decision to be open to an application by York and to treat them as if they are a member of the Football League, which offers benefits. We need a few more answers.”

The council’s ruling executive agreed to back the outline business case, but former council leader Steve Galloway warned: “It is possible that there is not the commercial development available to support this kind of enterprise.”

York to be ‘most sporting city’ just in four years

YORK should be Britain’s most sporting city within four years, with thousands more residents taking part in regular activities, leading officials were told.

Jo Gilliland, head of sport and active leisure at City of York Council, outlined the ambition yesterday, at a meeting of top politicians and sporting officials, including the sports minister, Gerry Sutcliffe.

Sporting participation in York is falling, and 46 per cent of over-16s currently do none.

Ms Gilliland said that was “worrying”, but said the council wanted an extra one per cent (1,657 people) a year to do sport by 2013.

She said the council would provide more facilities, more information and more events to entice people to take part, including a new “Just 30” campaign, urging people to regularly do half an hour’s sport.

Mr Sutcliffe said: “Thank you for the work you are doing in York, but we need to do more. We need to have world-class facilities for our communities.”