Call for assurances to protect £6million council investment in Wakefield Trinity’s Belle Vue Stadium revamp
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Last year, Wakefield Council agreed to major spending proposals as the state of the Belle Vue Stadium threatened the rugby league club’s then Super League status.
Councillors have now called for assurances that the investment will be protected if the club is taken over by a new owner.
The issue was raised at a regeneration, employment and skills scrutiny committee meeting as members considered a funding report.
Figures show that the council received just over £15m through Section 106 agreements during the last financial year.
Section 106 agreements are legally binding between developers and councils to fund local infrastructure, such as providing extra school places or funding public transport improvements.
During the 2022/23 period, the council spent just over £12m of the funding received.
Just under half of that amount, £5.9m, was spent on Trinity’s stadium redevelopment.
Ongoing work includes replacing the ground’s East Stand to boost spectator capacity to more than 8,000.
The scheme also includes resurfacing the car park, a new 4G pitch being laid and new floodlights.
Councillor David Pickersgill, chair of the committee, asked: “That investment has gone in. How is that secured?
“The £6m has been spent and it has increased the value of the club.
“What stops the owner selling it? Is there anything?”
Joe Jenkinson, the council’s service director for planning, replied: “I would have to take that one away and have a look at the mechanics of that particular agreement.
“But planning conditions for sections 106 agreements run with the land.
“So, if there is a change in title, the new owner is still obliged to stick with the agreement.”
Coun Pickersgill replied: “I think that would be helpful to know. Given the scale of the money it would be helpful to know what sort of guarantees the council has.”
When the funds were released in summer last year, Trinity’s stadium did not meet the minimum standards required to compete in Super League.
The club operated under an annual dispensation to do so from the Rugby Football League.
Trinity were relegated from Super League in September after 24 years in the top division.
The second largest amount of section 106 spending across the district was £3.9m on education provision.
Sums of almost £520,000 were spent on public open spaces and almost £300,000 went towards providing affordable homes.
Mr Jenkinson told the committee that the amount of funding has risen as building increased after the covid pandemic.
He said: “You are seeing a significant increase in section 106 spending.
“It is rare to see an eight-digit figure spent in a year.”
Some committee members complained that the funding had not been distributed evenly across the council’s 21 wards.
Steve Tulley, Labour councillor for South Elmsall, said: “We have managed to utilise £12m and that is commendable.
“But I have found only £44,000 of that has come to my part of the world.
“It is one of the most deprived areas.”
Knottingley Lib Dem councillor Peter Girt said: “We have had massive developments going on for years in Knottingley.
“We have not had a single penny.
“The poorest areas are getting hit the hardest and we are getting nowt.”
Coun Pickersgill said: “It seems to be that the north and west of the district tends to do better because developers are prepared to pay more for land for houses than the east and the south of the district.
“That tends to be the broad theme.”
Mr Jenkinson said: “This is just one year.
“If you want some answers over a longer timescale, I can go away and get figures to show what it is looking like.
“One year is not really sufficient to be reaching an overall conclusion.”
Mr Jenkinson agree to provide spending figures for a five-year period to the committee at a future meeting.