Wakefield Trinity to take Council to court

Wakefield Trinity have appointed a barrister and intend to take Wakefield Council to court over the Belle Vue fiasco.

Despite plans agreed by all parties to build the new Community Stadium in September, they fell through last week with Trinity in disagreement over rental costs.

And today the club owners Chris Brereton and Michael Carter have released a statement placing the entire blame on the Council for the breakdown.

The statement reads: The reason we are in the present predicament with no security of tenure for the future of Wakefield Trinity and its new Super League Stadium is entirely the fault of Wakefield Council.

Six years ago after three  weeks of evidence, a Public Enquiry paid for by the ratepayers of Wakefield, concluded that a Community Stadium compliant to Super League standards should be built and funded by the planning gains which accrued to the property developer of the Newmarket site adjacent to the M62.

It was the duty of Wakefield Council, as the Local Planning Authority, to ensure that in return for the land coming out of the green belt, the Community Stadium was constructed. The Developer has its planning consent but not a brick has been laid on the Stadium site. We simply require the Council to fulfil its statutory duties.

The Council now seeks to lay the blame for the mess which it has created, at the door of Wakefield Trinity. It should be borne in mind that a Labour controlled council has managed, as a result of the planning consents obtained by the developer, to line the pockets of a property speculator and has neglected to enforce the planning obligations due to its ratepayers, the Community at large, and of course, Wakefield Trinity Rugby League Club.

The current proposal that we pay a commercial/reasonable rent (of which we have yet to see any detail or figures) for the new Community Stadium at Belle Vue is unacceptable. There is a legally binding obligation for the Council to provide a 99 year lease at a peppercorn yearly rental to the Wakefield & District Community Trust. The Trust in turn would create a lease to Wakefield Trinity, as anchor tenants, at a nominal rent to cover the Trust’s operating expenses. Wakefield Trinity would then enjoy the rewards from the Stadium, but would also be liable for all associated risks in operating a Stadium. This was and remains entirely acceptable.

Chris Brereton and myself, have spent four years of our business lives resurrecting what was a bankrupt rugby league club. We have injected over one million pounds of our own hard earned money to reach this situation. However, we are happy with that situation because in playing terms and the fact that we only narrowly missed out on the play-offs; the Club is unrecognizable from the mess we inherited in September 2013.

Unfortunately it is obvious from the attitude adopted by Wakefield Council that they are not prepared to help us secure the long term sustainable future for the Club. It was and remains entirely within the Council’s power to compel the developer at Newmarket to deliver the Stadium. The draft lease approved by the Planning Inspector and prepared earlier by the Councillor or the developers provides for a 99 year lease with no rent reviews at a peppercorn lease in favour of the Wakefield & District Community Trust. Why on earth would we now consider a rental at commercial rates?

Councillor Box is on record in the Council chamber during the recent past making the definitive statement, that he will deliver the perfect agreement, to ensure the Community Stadium is delivered.

We are aware that the Tigers will own the freehold of their stadium at a transfer cost of £1. In legal terms a freehold interest is always more beneficial than a 99 year leasehold which we were prepared to accept. As a result of the Councils decision to relinquish their intention to develop the Stadium at Newmarket that opportunity is denied us. We are now offered a lease at a full commercial rent at a revamped Belle Vue. That simply puts the Club back to where we were in 2013- an uneconomic proposition, which would quickly cause the demise of the Club, created by the Councils change of attitude or its negligent failure to implement the terms of the planning consents contained in the Public Enquiry findings. This is a breach of the Councils duties as a public body and dereliction of its duties to Wakefield Trinity.

Mr Hussain, the developer of the Belle Vue site has publicly criticised our stance. We were asked by the Council to engage with all the other business people involved in the new Belle Vue proposals. We issued invitations to all concerned on 28th September to attend a meeting to discuss any possible alternative solutions. Mr Hussain never responded so he cannot be critical of our efforts. We sold our season tickets in good faith believing that we would be able to remain at Belle Vue in accordance with the prospect of reasonable terms for a new stadium at Belle Vue. The deal we are now offered bears no resemblance to the lease at Newmarket. It is totally unfair to criticise the Club when there are no meaningful or viable options on the table. When we finalise our playing options for 2018, anyone who has bought a season ticket, and is not happy, will be offered a full refund. However I would hope that our loyal fan base would stick with us at this time.

So far as the Council press releases are concerned we respond:

‘We understand that the Super League deal with Sky pays them a significant sun to cover accommodation costs including reasonable rentals’ –Our Super League payments have no stipulations about rental payments. The fact remains that we have been penalised to the tune of £50,000 for this season ongoing, because Belle Vue fails to meet the minimum operating standards.

To the following comments:

‘I have asked the Club to clarify their intentions as I am aware that they are selling tickets to fans for games at Belle Vue beyond the date the Club have indicated they wish to leave the ground’ – M Hussain

‘I urge the clubs owners to put the fans first’ – D Jeffreys

‘My greatest concern is for the fans’ – M Hussain

We simply reply to the Council – deliver the Newmarket Stadium in accordance with your statutory duties and in response to Mr Hussain, we point out to our loyal fans that we have never received any indication of the expectation of rent for next year, despite being asked many times. We put forward our heads of terms requiring the equivalent of the Newmarket deal and have had no response from Mr Hussain other than a threat of the service of a schedule of dilapidations (repairs) for Belle Vue amounting to hundreds of thousands of pounds. These are not the actions of anyone who has the interests of our fans at heart.

We are now preparing our case for presentation to the High Court. For reasons we know you will understand. We have waited since June 2012 for the Council to deliver Newmarket Stadium. We are no nearer today then we were then!

We have a duty to our fans and the City of Wakefield to ensure the long term survival and success of the Club.

We will not be deterred by the unhelpful bullying by the Council and the developers at Newmarket or Belle Vue. We have no mandate or authority to accept anything less than the Community facilities promised at Newmarket on the legally binding terms set out in the Public Inquiry Planning decision. The findings of the Public Inquiry are a matter of public record. Do not rely on our interpretation of them. We have nothing to hide. Look for yourselves at the results on the government website. You will see where the blame lies for this farcical situation. The Club has been used as a Trojan Horse to secure planning gains for property developers which are worth millions of pounds and take land out of the green belt. Meanwhile the bargaining chip used to obtain the consents is nowhere near delivery.

Finally, there are times when there is no alternative other than to stand and fight to enforce what we know to be our rights for the future of our great Club – Wakefield Trinity rather than to see it sacrificed on the altar of the Council and Developers greed.

Chris Brereton & Michael Carter

Directors, Custodians and Fans of Wakefield Trinity