PLANS for a new shopping park and community stadium, which could create more than 1,600 jobs for York, have been unveiled.

Developers want to build a new home for York City FC and York City Knights at Monks Cross, alongside a retail complex including a huge Marks & Spencer store.

They handed in their planning application for the scheme to City of York Council yesterday.

Oakgate (Monks Cross) Ltd also said they are closing in on a deal with "a leading UK retailer" – which The Press understands is retail giant John Lewis - to move to the site.

Under the plans, the Knights' current Huntington Stadium home would be demolished and replaced with a 6,000-seater arena, which could eventually be expanded to a 12,000 capacity, for the football and rugby clubs.

If the proposals are approved, the stadium is scheduled for completion by 2014.

Funds would also be released for City of York Athletics Club to relocate to the University of York's new Sports Village.

Oakgate said the development would create about 1,000 new jobs, as well as 380 "spin-off" roles and about 275 construction jobs.

The 120,000sq ft M&S store would lead to the chain's two existing Monks Cross outlets closing, while its Piccadilly branch in the city centre could also shut but its Pavement store would be modernised.

The scheme would also include a three-floor community building, providing a home for York St John University's proposed Institute of Community Sport and Wellbeing, outpatient services for York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and possibly community play facilities, as well as an Explore library centre.

A community square and park would link the stadium and shops.

The Monks Cross Park&Ride would be expanded to 1,150 spaces, with the 400 extra places being reserved for matchday use when City or the Knights are playing.

There would also be a third, smaller shop and three restaurants.

The stadium's main east stand could have 2,750 seats and accommodation and administration areas for both clubs, as well as executive boxes, a function suite and a restaurant.

Each end stand could hold 1,450 seats, with the west side having a temporary 660-seater stand which could ultimately be removed to allow for any expansion.

The council's stadium project manager, Tim Atkins, said: "Today's announcement is the result of a great deal of work undertaken by the partners involved in this exciting project, which is now a major step closer to being a reality."

Coun Sonja Crisp, cabinet member for leisure and culture, called the project "a once-in-a-generation opportunity" which would leave "a long-standing legacy of sporting, health and educational benefits."

Chief executive Kersten England said: "This is a priority for the council, and we are pleased we have been able to deliver on this commitment and quickly progress preparations to enable York to gain a new stadium and athletics facility, the benefits of which will be felt by the whole community for years to come."

The final decision on whether the scheme goes ahead will be down to the council's planning committee.

Proposals broadly welcomed

THE firm behind the retail park and stadium vision has said it would be a massive economic and sporting boost for York.

Richard France, managing director of Oakgate (Monks Cross) Ltd, said: "To have Marks & Spencer already signed up is really exciting and indicates the confidence major retailers have in York – it sends the signal out to our regional rivals that York is not standing still".

Clem Constantine, M&S property director, said the company would be making a "significant investment" in York, and Susie Cawood, head of York and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, said: "We believe the new development will complement, not compete with, York's city centre."

York City FC chairman Jason McGill said the stadium would be "fantastic news" and see "a step-change in the fortunes of the club", while City of York Athletics Club chairman Neil Hunter said: "This is a big step towards securing significantly improved facilities for athletics in York."

But York City Knights executive chairman John Guildford said: "We are still awaiting a viable, comprehensive proposal for a new stadium, and until we receive such a proposal from the council, we have nothing to comment on."

York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust's chief executive Patrick Crowley said the new community building would allow it to widen outpatient services such as physiotherapy, pain management and sexual health. Meanwhile, Professor Pam Dawson, dean of York St John University's faculty of health and life sciences, said it would be a "great location" for promoting sport, health and active lifestyles.

York Press: The Press - Comment

Stadium dream moves closer

EIGHTEEN months ago, progress on York’s community stadium appeared bafflingly slow.

A progress report by stadium project manager Tim Atkins was frustratingly short on detail. Nobody knew where the stadium would be, how it would be paid for – or even what facilities it would include.

Fast forward 18 months, and the situation is very different. Today, developer Oakgate lodged an outline planning application for the redevelopment of the Huntington Stadium at Monks Cross. The scheme would see the creation of a new 6,000-seat community stadium as a home for York City and the Knights, plus a shopping development consisting of two big new stores (one of them M&S, the other, we understand, John Lewis), a smaller store, two kiosks, three restaurants and a new public square.

Alongside the stadium there may also be an Explore learning centre and space for York Hospital to deliver outpatient services.

These proposals are genuinely exciting. In addition to the badly-needed new facilities, they would bring substantial inward investment, and create many hundreds of jobs.

Not everyone is in favour. City centre retailers are worried about the impact the news shops could have on their livelihoods.

Their concerns must be listened to. But Oakgate insists a scheme of this quality will enable York to compete with Leeds or Sheffield’s Meadowhall, bringing more visitors to York.

With 400 extra spaces at the Monks Cross Park&Ride, the hope is some of them at least would be tempted to visit the city centre as well.

These arguments will rumble on. But it is good to see progress on this long-awaited scheme at last.

York Press: What do you think? - Click to comment