An ambitious scheme to make Middlesbrough FC’s stadium the first self-sustainable sports venue in Europe appears to be in tatters, as the developer behind the project announced it was launching £11m High Court actions against the club and Middlesbrough Council.
North Yorkshire developer Empowering Wind said its partnership with Boro had disintegrated following four years’ work, as it prepared to install a 136m turbine in the 34,000-seater stadium’s overflow car park.
The firm claims the Championship club’s bosses have refused to provide a connection from the turbine to Riverside Stadium, following the club suffering £240,000 revenue losses due to lengthy delays as the council considered a Durham Tees Valley Airport objection to the scheme.
The legal actions are the latest twist in a bizarre chain of events surrounding the project.
It comes almost a decade after Riverside bosses unveiled plans to build a turbine beside the stadium to cut its electricity bill, saving around £3.2m over 20 years, and reducing carbon emissions.
The club had said the renewable energy scheme would provide power for decades that would otherwise come from the National Grid.
In 2013, Boro chief executive Neil Bausor said: “As well as being good for the environment, this initiative will also enable us to make extra savings and enhance our aspirations on the field.”
The scheme had been scheduled for completion by this summer after Middlesbrough Council removed a condition from its 2008 planning permission for the venture – for which the airport asked the Empowering Wind to pay it £700,000 before it would lift its objection to the scheme.
The authority’s decision ended a long-running row between the developer and the airport, which claimed the turbine could compromise passenger safety and planes may have needed to be re-routed if Empowering Wind did not pay towards updating its air traffic control system.
Relations between the club and the developer deteriorated earlier this year when the developer called upon a provision in its lease and supply agreement with the club to avoid paying Boro £240,000, for the power the turbine would have generated for the stadium if the scheme had not suffered delays.
Empowering Wind stated the delays of more than a year had been beyond its control.
Mark Ellis, chief operating officer for the club, which had taken £200,000 from the firm in 2013 to lease the land, insisted the developer was responsible for the losses and issued a formal demand for the money, which he warned would be enforced if the developer did not fulfil its obligations.
The developer said it then offered a compromise to the club to resolve the dispute and get on with building the turbine, but a further row later broke out over responsibility for the fall back supply to the stadium.
Empowering Wind chief executive Paul Millinder said: “Middlesbrough Football Club have invoiced me for money that is clearly not due as a pathetic attempt to determine the contracts.
“The club seem to have their own version of UK law, but unfortunately for them, my barristers are now involved and both senior counsel and my solicitors have a completely different interpretation.”
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