Don Valley on last lap as bulldozers stand by

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News: Sheffield Telegraph online 24-hours a day.

FINAL council clearance for the closure of Don Valley Stadium at the end of September, likely to be followed swiftly by demolition, is expected next week.

Councillors are set to authorise the spending of £250,000 on bulldozing the stadium and £150,000 on redundancy costs as they prepare for the relocation of city athletics to Woodbourn Road.

The one-off costs are “significantly outweighed” by not paying the annual £700,000 subsidy to Don Valley and the £1.6m repairs that would have been needed from next year, it is argued.

After the controversy over the proposed closure of Don Valley, where Olympic champion Jessica Ennis trained, the financial and other implications are now being wrapped up.

The council is allocating £150,000 to improve the Woodbourn Road stadium, and is talking to Sport England and England Athletics with a view to a total £300,000 investment package. Discussions are being held on ways of running the stadium. One option is for an athletics club to take a lease with a grant from the council to meet core costs, says director of culture Paul Billington in a report to the council’s cabinet next Wednesday.

“If one club were to operate the site, it would be on the basis of fair and guaranteed access to the city’s other key athletics clubs and appropriate community access.”

A Woodbourn Delivery Group has been set up, including representatives of the council, England Athletics, City of Sheffield Athletics Club and Hallamshire Harriers. “The support recently offered for Woodbourn by the city’s athletics club is a strong indication of the potential it offers to meet the city’s long term athletics needs,” says Mr Billington.

He adds: “The closure of Don Valley Stadium poses a risk to the city’s reputation as a City of Sport. However, much of the concern expressed so far has been in relation to the loss of a ‘national facility’ with a consequent call by some for the Government and/or national sporting agencies to step forward with solutions.

“It appears this is unlikely to happen. Both Sport England and Lord Coe have acknowledged the council’s difficult decision, but also noted the opportunity arising at Woodbourn.”

Former Sheffield MP and Sports Minister Richard Caborn hopes to see a £40m “sports and wellbeing park” replace Don Valley - but no funding has been identified, and there is no room for athletics.