First of all I would like to say thank you to the 1,117 fans who have added their name in support of our call for a public meeting to date. This is absolutely fantastic so thank you and please do continue to spread the word.
I welcome Cllr Box’s call to move forward yesterday. My statement last week called for exactly this and I am glad Cllr Box has agreed to join us. Despite having a baby just two weeks ago I was following the debate online and sent my team to attend the meeting to represent my office. Finally after nearly five years, Cllr Box is engaging with the public and I am delighted that after pressure from the Stadium Trust, my office, the Wakefield Conservatives and above all the Wakefield Trinity fans and the community, Wakefield Council (the Council) are waking up to the reality that they and Yorkcourt (the Developer) have failed to deliver for the people of Wakefield.
Make no mistake, many times the Council and the Developer have failed to deliver (for the last 4 years since the application has been approved to be precise) and there is still no evidence of the outcome of the private meetings that the Leader of the Council has had with the developer. The Stadium Trust was not invited to these meetings and the details have not been published to date.
Cllr Box has agreed to move forward, but another thing my statement called for was transparency and accountability. Cllr Box continues to fail to deliver on this. Yesterday’s announcement was a last minute announcement in response to pressure from the community, my campaign, the Wakefield Conservatives and the Stadium Trust and I urge everyone, as I am sure they will, to act with caution. The Council has had over 4 years to make the proposed moves. Indeed this statement could, after all, be a tactic to buy time (for when the application expires in December 2017) and the following crucial questions remain unanswered:
Why do we need a new Section 106?
- Cllr Box keeps highlighting that the Secretary of State agreed to unilateral agreement and that this should have been a multilateral agreement. The current agreement promises a fully equipped, large stadium in return for development of Green Belt land. It was agreed by the Developer who came up with their own business plan, who have the bulk of the capital and the ownership of the site. Why is a new agreement needed?
- The current application to develop the site along with a stadium was issued in December 2012. That is 4 years and 4 months ago. Why is it that only now, 8 months before the application is about to expire that the Council requires a new agreement? I warn fans that if the application expires neither the current agreement nor a new one will be valid unless the current application’s validity is extended in its current form. As I recently highlighted, is the Developer trying to buy time so that in the new application a Stadium is not proposed allowing them to save a staggering £13m? Are Cllr Box’s actions right at the very end (where they are likely to not be successful) a cynical attempt to be able to say in December 2017 when there is no stadium and no valid application, that the Council did everything they could and go on to blame everyone else? Will the a new application in 2018 include a stadium at all? Or will it include a lesser stadium for the people of Wakefield leaving them short-changed? These scenarios are a serious possibility and I urge the Stadium Trust and fans to be aware of them and to ask for transparency.
Why is the Council only agreeing to count the 22,300sqm of the Newcold development towards the current Section 106 community stadium agreement trigger now?
- The current Section 106 requires that 60,000sqm of land is developed before triggering a the requirement for a community stadium. The Council say that they have always enforced this Section 106 but in 2013 they agreed for a 22,300sqm development to be built on the site without it counting towards the 60,000sqm requirement. Why has it taken the Council over 3 years to conclude that they failed to enforce the Section 106 for the community and they have only agreed to this now? Does this not prove the point that the current Section 106 agreement would have worked as intended by the Secretary of State had the Council enforced it adequately? And, above all, even if the Council agree to adding these 22,300sqm and a further 17,700sqm (taking it to 40,000sqm), what guarantees will the Developer offer that 60,000sqm will be built by December 2017? Will the Council market the site to attract the remaining 20,000sqm? Or, are the Council and the Developer again just buying time, misleading Wakefield Trinity fans?
Why is there no transparency?
- Cllr Box keeps saying that he is not responsible for the building of a Stadium but he continues to have closed door meetings with the developers while failing to enforce the Secretary of State’s requirement for a community stadium on Green Belt land. Why was the agreement between the Council and the Developer reached a day before the Council meeting? Why was the Stadium Trust not part of these conversations? What does the new agreement say and why have the people of Wakefield not seen it and not been privy to it? Why is the Council giving in to the Developer and not enforcing the current Section 106? Are the Council allowing the Developer to build a lesser stadium? What are the Developer’s true intentions once the planning application expires?
All the above are very serious questions that both the Developer and the Council need to answer. Yesterday’s meeting was carefully staged where serious allegations were made by Cllr Box while neither the community, the Stadium Trust, nor myself were allowed to speak and represent ourselves to prove these allegations wrong and to ask the above questions. If Cllr Box is serious about working actively, collaboratively and transparently, he should stop orchestrating his moves, dropping crucial information in the last minute without transparency, and stop arranging meetings where he has the freedom to speak but other key stakeholders are not allowed to. If his intentions are indeed genuine, I am sure he can agree to meet in a forum where everyone can speak and where no political tricks are played by issuing last minute changes, agreed the day before, behind closed doors, that no one can scrutinise.
As I said I welcome Cllr Box’s intention to move forward, to correct the Council’s mistakes when in 2013, 22,300sqm were approved without them counting towards the trigger and call for transparency. It is therefore most important now that fans continue to add pressure to the Council and the Developer to ensure that Cllr Box’s words are matched with action and that answers are provided. To this end I urge fans to continue to support our call for a public meeting, now more than ever.
If you are unable to see the below form correctly please follow this link.
My previous statement can be found here: Link
My previous press release can be found here: Link
Stadium Photo © Sky Sports