Planning blow to Wakefield stadium hopes

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The Independent Online

Wakefield's hopes of moving into a new stadium by 2012 have been dealt a major blow which could have serious repercussions for their Super League future.

A planning application for the development of a community stadium at Newmarket, just off the M62 motorway - where the Wildcats are due to be major tenants - has been referred by the Government to the Secretary of State, which at best will cause a lengthy delay.

The Wildcats are one of three clubs - Salford and Castleford are the others - whose bid for a renewal of their Super League licence hinges on their ability to move into a new stadium by 2012.

Wakefield chief executive James Elston said: "With Super League licensing looking closely at facilities, this delay is a huge blow.

"Rugby league has been synonymous with the City of Wakefield for 137 years and this delay could put that in jeopardy.

"We now need to conduct further meetings with the developer, the Community Trust and with other stakeholders to review the contingency plans that were put in place in the event of such a delay in planning."

Wakefield have confirmed that 2011 will be their last season at Belle Vue and it is thought one of their contingency plans for 2012 is to play their home games at Barnsley's Oakwell.

Sir Rodney Walker, chairman of the Wakefield and District Community Trust, said: "We are obviously deeply disappointed with today's news.

"I am astounded and I cannot understand how on the day the Government confirm that planning decisions will be referred back to local authorities this application has been called in.

"We believe this is only the second application to be called in since the new Coalition Government came to power."

Wakefield Council have given their outline planning consent but the development is also on brown field property owned by Leeds City Council, who have received a number of objections from local residents.

A spokesperson for developers Yorkcourt Properties Limited said: "The planning process is still ongoing.

"This news creates a delay but we will continue to work with all necessary advisors and authorities to do all we can to deliver this scheme for the City of Wakefield."

The Rugby Football League's board of directors are committed to promoting a Championship club to Super League for 2012 and will decide next July which Super League club will make way for the arrival of Widnes, Halifax or Barrow.