Leeds Arena To Follow Eventually

Nearly two years after beating some of the world’s best-known venue operators to win the contract to run a new arena in Leeds, SMG Europe will be cheered to hear the project has now been given outline planning permission.

Leeds City Council, which is behind the new arena, got the go-ahead from its planning panel March 22. The next steps are to obtain detailed planning permission and choose a contractor to build the 13,500-capacity venue.

“Being granted outline planning permission provides the council with a strong platform to finalise the arena design,” said Leeds City Council leader Andrew Carter.

Leeds believes the new arena, which will end up costing at least £78 million, will create more than 300 jobs and generate £28 million per year for the local economy.

The council may still be on target to break ground in the autumn and complete the build in time for a 2012 opening, which would be an impressive performance considering the problems the project has met along the way.

When first announced, the arena met with protests from MPs in the neighbouring city of Sheffield who thought it would threaten the arena in their city.

Their opposition led the government to pull £18 million of funding that regional development agency Yorkshire Forward had set aside for the Leeds building.

Sheffield International Venues, the group behind Sheffield Arena, said government money should not be used to favour one Yorkshire city over another.

SMG originally signed the management deal in spring 2008, beating competitors the Yorkshire Post identified as Live Nation, AEG, Global Spectrum and Logistik/GL.

It signed another one last October because the original agreement made provision for a third-party developer, which needed to be amended when the local authority opted to take that role itself.

The choice of Claypit Lane as the site had already sparked controversy when Montpellier Estates decided to take the council to court when it found out it intended building it on land the company owns at Claypit Lane.

The site was not originally short-listed and Montpellier chairman Jan Fletcher – having apparently lost the chance to put forward a proposal for the correct site – told the Yorkshire Post she had “great regret” over pursuing the matter in the High Court. She said the council had left the company no alternative.

The issue appears to have been amicably resolved as Property Week recently reported that Montpellier has just submitted new plans to redevelop the 10-acre Holbeck site where it believed the arena would be situated.

It will now be heading a development that will include prime office space, residential and retail units, restaurants, a hotel and a casino.

Leeds City Council has an unfortunate history with civic projects. In 2002 it admitted its plans to build a centrepiece live music stage on the city’s Millennium Square were a disaster because the structure didn’t even comply with the authority’s own building regulations.

The council had already paid 80 percent of the £399,470 tender price. When it sought redress against the contractor, Nottingham-based Stage Hire, it found the company had gone into voluntary liquidation with debts of £227,560 and with only £16 in the bank.