Allerdale Borough Council’s Executive committee today agreed to look further into the business case for a new community stadium in Workington, indicating their intention to look into reducing the size and scale of the scheme previously proposed.
The councillors considered a report from the Overview and Scrutiny Committee which had decided on 11 April, 2019 to recommend further work on the business case behind the plans. The scrutiny committee had called-in the decision made by the previous Executive on 22 March 2019, to proceed with the stadium scheme.
The new Executive has spent the last few weeks considering the plan and at today’s meeting Executive members asked questions about the potential cost of the project and potential financial risk to the council.
A motion was tabled by Cllr Mark Jenkinson, Deputy Leader, for council officers to continue looking into the business case for a new stadium and that in doing so, reduce the size and specification. The motion was approved unanimously by the six Executive members present.
Speaking at the meeting, Leader of the Council, Marion Fitzgerald said: “A great deal of work has been done by councillors on the Executive committee to get to the bottom of the business case and understand it. We have also reached out to Workington Reds and Workington Town to make sure any decision we made was fully informed.
“There’s no question the clubs’ need modern facilities and a new stadium would benefit them and wider the public. But we have to balance that with the risk to the council and serving the needs of the whole borough.”
Cllr Jenkinson, who is also Executive member with responsibility for economic growth, said: “We are aware of the situation the clubs see themselves in… But we need to ensure that the business case stacks up which is why I want to take more time to look again at it. I also would like to see more investment in grass roots sporting clubs.”
The scrutiny committee had originally questioned the comparisons with other stadium projects elsewhere in the country, the importance of the project for the hosting of the Rugby League World Cup (RLWC) and the proposed stadium’s sustainability.
The original decision made by the previous administration had agreed to finance the scheme using an investor/developer route. This meant that the council would have used a developer to both finance and build the stadium with the council having to act as guarantor for the income streams.
The plans included an 8,000 capacity stadium on the current site of Borough Park, hospitality and conference facilities, and a 3G training pitch on nearby land. The plans also included office accommodation for Sellafield and a new NHS facilities.
The council was approached last year by Workington Town Rugby League club and Workington Reds football club, to investigate the possibility of building a new stadium for them both.
Meetings will be arranged with the officials from the two clubs who were to share the new stadium, Workington Reds football club and Workington Town rugby league club, to discuss their future now that the decision had been taken.
The council will also be speaking with other key stakeholders, including from the Rugby League World Cup who were to stage games at the new stadium in 2021. The council will continue dialogue with RLWC.
More on this story will feature in Monday’s issue of League Express