Friday, 24 June 2011

Hotspurned And Disoriented

West Ham have moved a stage closer to occupying the Olympic Stadium after a high court judge rejected applications from Tottenham Hotspur and Leyton Orient to challenge the decision to select West Ham as the preferred bidder for the stadium after the 2012 Games. Hotspurned and Disoriented were both seeking judicial review of the OPLC’s decision taken in February and the Government’s endorsement of their recommendation, as well as that of the Mayor, and also Newham Council’s decision to agree a potential £40m loan to fund conversion of the stadium in a joint venture with West Ham. They also believed that the process by which the loan to the joint venture company that will operate the stadium on behalf of West Ham and the Olympic borough was unfair.

Mr Justice Davis rejected four separate applications for permission to seek judicial review of those decisions at a hearing at the high court. A fifth application lodged by Orient against the Government is yet to be considered by the judge. He is understood to have written to all interested parties yesterday afternoon informing of the reasons for his decisions. However, reports the Guardian, the long-running and bitterly fought saga over the long-term future of the stadium is not over, with both clubs expected to consider further legal steps. Tottenham and Orient have the right to appeal against the decision to reject their applications and can request an oral hearing to make their case.

Had they been successful there would have been a full trial of the decision-making process, but Thursday’s decision potentially clears the way for negotiations between the OPLC and West Ham over the stadium lease to resume. The Olympic Park Legacy Company welcomed the decision, with OPLC chairwoman, Margaret Ford, stating the decision over the future of the £486m stadium was taken in the proper manner. "The court has decided to refuse both Tottenham Hotspur and Leyton Orient permission to pursue a judicial review challenge in relation to Legacy Company’s decision to select a preferred bidder for the Olympic Stadium," said a spokesman. "We are pleased with the ruling and continue to make good progress in our negotiations with the Preferred Bidder in order to be in a position to agree the final terms for the Stadium’s lease."

West Ham hope to move in for the start of the 2014-15 season, after spending £95m converting the 80,000-seat Olympic venue into a 60,000-seat football stadium. Karren Brady, the West Ham vice-chairwoman who oversaw the club's bid, welcomed the judge's decision. "We hope we can now focus all our energy and passion on delivering a fantastic multi-use Olympic Stadium for the whole nation," she said. "We were honoured to be unanimously chosen as preferred bidder by the OPLC. Their decision, after a robust and diligent process, was subsequently backed by the Mayor of London and government. Our vision – in partnership with the London Borough of Newham – remains for a globally recognised destination for all, with community at its core, capable of hosting world-class sporting events, including top-level football and athletics."

Newham council, which has faced criticism from Spurs and Orient over its decision to partner with West Ham and inject a £40m loan, also welcomed the verdict. "We are continuing to focus on securing a lasting legacy for the stadium and, together with West Ham United, are progressing well with the OPLC on bringing the matter to a commercial and financial close," it said.

Spurs had proposed to dismantle the stadium and remove the track, while West Ham promised to retain the athletics facilities but faces questions over whether it will be viable as a multi-use venue. After losing out to West Ham, Spurs were left considering whether to reactivate plans to redevelop White Hart Lane or find a new site in Haringay or beyond. A statement from Tottenham read: "The club now has the option of renewing its application at an oral hearing at the high court and we shall give consideration to this in the next few days. As previously reported, the club continues to hold discussions with both local and national government bodies in order to seek to determine a feasible stadium solution."

Barry Hearn, chairman of Leyton Orient, has argued that West Ham's cut-price ticket offers in the new Olympic Stadium will decimate Orient's support base. They will now meet lawyers to decide whether they'll respond to a rejection for a review of the Olympic Stadium call. A club statement on Orient's official website read: "Further to the decision by the High Court to deny Leyton Orient leave to review the decisions by OPLC and London Borough of Newham, the club will be seeking advice from its solicitors as to whether it will seek an oral hearing in respect of either or both decisions. The club continues with its Judicial Review against the Government and arbitration over the Premier League's decision to allow West Ham United to move to the Olympic Stadium without taking into consideration the adverse effect on Leyton Orient. The club will be making no further comment on the matter at the moment."

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