Last stand fails to save stadium from bulldozers

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Final hopes of saving Sheffield’s Don Valley Stadium have been dashed – after councillors refused a U-turn on its closure.

A date has now been set for demolition of the stadium to begin, which could take as long as six months

Don Valley Stadium

Don Valley Stadium

Members of Save Our Stadium had collected 6,000 signatures on a petition calling for a debate on its proposals to take over the site and run it at no cost to the taxpayer.

However, Sheffield Council heard the group needed more time – and mothballing the stadium would cost £180,000.

Demolition will now begin on Thursday, November 21 and will take place very slowly so contractors can recycle ‘as much material as possible’, the council said.

Athletics coach Rob Creasey, presenting the petition, showed images of Sheffield athlete Mukhtar Mohammed, 800m European bronze medal winner, standing in Don Valley Stadium and replacement, Woodbourn Road.

Referring to Woodbourn Road’s location, he said: “The images illustrate the differences. Would Woodbourn Road have inspired people to train as Olympians?

“It would have to be a very small school or maybe a kindergarten to even have a sports day at Woodbourn Road with just 140 seats.”

During a debate about the petition, Coun Alison Brelsford, opposition Liberal Democrat culture spokeswoman, queried why Don Valley Stadium could not have been run at a profit.

She said: “Other cities run these things and manage to make them pay. Why not us? This group just needs time.”

Coun Jillian Creasy, of the Green Party, asked why the council did not make its closure plans public earlier than in January.

She said: “This was on the cards back in May 2012.”

But Labour Coun Peter Price, who campaigned to have the stadium built for the World Student Games, blamed athletics bodies for the stadium’s demise.

He said:”We had a gentlemen’s agreement for them to bring events.

“However, things changed and now cities have to pay to host competitions.”

Coun Shaffaq Mohammed, Liberal Democrat group leader, accused the council of inflating the cost of subsidising Don Valley – which he recalled being £400,000 ‘not long ago’, compared to the £700,000 it claims now.

Labour councillors accused him of ‘hypocrisy’ for supporting school plans for the site – but he replied the school could be built on the opposite side of the running track to the main stand.

Coun Isobel Bowler, cabinet member for culture and sport, said: “Facilities on track at Woodbourn will be comparable with Don Valley.”