Workington Stadium plans to be scaled back

Allerdale Council has voted to cut back plans to build a new stadium in Workington, arguing the scheme would put the council “under considerable financial risk”.

The council has changed its tune after a decision to progress the project was called in; the scheme had been backed by the previous Labour administration which was unseated at May’s local elections.

The mixed-use development, to be built at Workington AFC’s current ground off the A597 and near the town centre, is set to house Workington’s rugby league and non-league football teams, and was put forward in February this year. The 8,000-capacity stadium is intended to host matches as part of the 2021 Rugby League World Cup.

Council leader Cllr Marion Jenkinson, who is an independent and took up her role in May, said there was “no question that the project would place the council under considerable financial risk” and said the ambition for the stadium should be scaled back to make it more affordable.

In addition to the sports facilities, the original plans included 29,000 sq ft of offices, set to host 300 staff from Sellafield, along with 28,000 sq ft of floorspace for the NHS, and a pharmacy.

The council was to act as guarantor for the scheme under the initial plans put forward earlier this year.

A business case had already gone before the council’s executive in March; this report argued there was a “strong strategic and economic case” for the development, arguing it could generate up to £239m of income over 50 years.

Estimated costs if the proposals were supported by council borrowing are £28.6m, while if the scheme was supported by an investor or developer, the GDV stands at £33m.

Following a decision last week, council officers will now look to draw up a business case for a reduced stadium with a view to cutting potential costs. The council leadership also added the timescales put forward earlier in the year for the project had been “unrealistic”.

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That’s a shame for the Wukkinton clubs, eh?

Serious questions needs to be asked of those who drew up the initial plans. Where does this leave the Reds, Town and the RL World Cup? High and dry by the looks of it.

By Bobby Bluebird

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