Harrogate millionaire loses Leeds Arena High Court battle

Jan Fletcher OBE, Chairman of Montpellier Estates Ltd
Jan Fletcher OBE, Chairman of Montpellier Estates Ltd

A Harrogate millionaire is considering an appeal after the High Court ruled against Montpellier Estates’ £30m claim that Leeds City Council deceived the firm during the bidding process for Leeds Arena.

Jan Fletcher owns Montpellier Estates Ltd, and entered a ten-week High Court wrangle with the authority in relation to alleged false assurances made by the council during the arena site selection process.

This morning (Wednesday), Mr Justice Supperstone ruled in favour of Leeds City Council.

All individuals facing allegations of deceit were found not to have acted dishonestly.

Leeds City Council started a procurement process for the siting of the venue in August 2007, shortlisting two sites in February 2008 and bids were submitted in September 2008.

Montpellier argued that by at least January 2008, the council was already looking at alternatives to develop the Arena itself outside of the procurement process, despite giving assurances to Montpellier that this was not the case.

These assurances were the basis of Montpellier’s claim in deceit.

After the ruling, Ms Fletcher OBE, chairman of Montpellier Estates said: “Anyone who knew what went on in this Arena bid will understand why we took this action against Leeds City Council.

“We are very surprised at the Judgement and we are considering whether there are grounds for appeal.

“I continue to remain committed to and passionate about the city of Leeds and wish every success for the opening of the Leeds Arena later this year.”

Leeds City Council chief executive Tom Riordan said: “This is absolute vindication of the honesty and integrity of Leeds City Council, its members, officers and professional consultants.

“Our processes have been held up to the most intense scrutiny possible over two months in the High Court. Our witnesses were subject to long hours of evidence-giving and rigorous cross-examination and many thousands of documents and statements were dissected in the finest detail.

“Cancelling the competition to develop the arena and progress with the scheme at Clay Pit Lane was always a difficult decision to take, but was a correct one given the state of the economic crisis in November 2008. There was certainly never any deceit involved.

“This court case has proved beyond any doubt that Leeds City Council has the highest standard of integrity and its operations are conducted openly, honestly and with robust, fully-accountable procedures. We are a principled public authority which has strong values of trust and transparency running through what we do.

“The nature of this claim has caused a great deal of stress and anxiety for all of the council’s witnesses. I would like to thank them for their dignified and professional approach, especially the project team, who have continued to ensure that the arena is still being built on time and budget despite the massive distractions caused by this case.”

Jan Fletcher said she had been overwhelmed by support for her and her action: “I have had extraordinarily kind letters, emails and comments of support – often from the most unexpected quarters. I have also been surprised at just how many people feel strongly about the need for better run tenders and competitions. There is a call for the government to introduce a college of procurement – particularly after the West Coast rail franchise fiasco. This is a priority and must be extended to include local authorities.”