Leeds Rhinos have confirmed that development plans for the South Stand at Headingley Carnegie Stadium have been delayed.
The redevelopment of the stadium, including the South Stand and the shared Main Stand with Yorkshire County Cricket Club, was due to begin with demolition work on the terrace in January 2017.
Leeds Rhinos said those plans have had to be put back due to the time taken in achieving the appropriate planning permissions necessary for both the development itself and the supporting funding developments necessary to undertake the project.
The boards of both clubs are committed to continue to work together with the support of Leeds City Council to deliver this scheme which, once complete, will underpin Test Match Cricket at Headingley and upgrade the rugby side of the stadium.
The delays have been caused by complex planning matters relating to the early release of two sites owned by Leeds Rhinos that are currently put forward by the Council for development in its Site Allocations Process. These sites underpin the financial support to be provided to the project by both Clubs, other public bodies and Leeds City Council itself.
Leeds Rhinos were the best supported team in the Betfred Super League last season with an average crowd of 15,476. Capacity for the stadium was due to be restricted to 13,500 in 2017 but will now remain at just over 20,000.
The plans for the South Stand, which was built in 1931, will see the existing terrace replaced with a new combined seated and standing area.
Chief Executive Gary Hetherington said:
We are deeply disappointed that we have been unable thus far to deliver the project on time. The funding package for the whole stadium development involves investment from both ourselves and Yorkshire CCC, and support from both Leeds City Council and other public bodies.
The sale of historical land assets completes the funding of the scheme leaving the clubs in a stable long term financial position. Naturally a project of this magnitude has unique challenges and unfortunately we have not been able to conclude some of those to allow us to begin work on the South Stand. We appreciate the support from the council to date but we recognise the distinction and integrity of the planning process.
Meanwhile, Yorkshire CCC expressed its deep concerns over a decision to delay the redevelopment at Headingley, and said it could lead to the loss of International cricket from 2020 to 2024.
Yorkshire CCC chief executive Mark Arthur said:
Following Leeds Rhinos’ announcement earlier today, Yorkshire would like to voice its fears over the knock-on effect to the GBP£38 million scheme.
This is essential for both the staging of International fixtures beyond 2019 and the financial sustainability of the Club.
The 2020-2024 major matches will be allocated in the summer of 2017, therefore this delay could mean that Headingley will no longer be considered fit for Test Match cricket – or to host any World Cup matches in 2019.
Not only does this delay impact the Club’s ability to stage Internationals, it would also have profound consequences to both Yorkshire’s and Leeds Rhinos’ valuable and long-standing work within the wider community. To continue the vast amount of work within the Leeds area, the Club is dependent on retaining International cricket.
As highlighted in a recent ‘Grant Funding Application’ submitted to Leeds City Council in July 2016, the redevelopment would account for GBP£5.75 million of additional visitor spend in Leeds and £5.3 million county-wide per annum.
Image Yorkshire CCC North/South Stand courtesy of Yorkshire CCC