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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Massive Retail Proposal Drives Wedge Between Knowsley and Tesco

Knowsley CouncilThe latest revised documents within the Tesco planning application have served to confirm the information given to KEIOC by our insider at KMBC that a wedge has been driven between Knowsley Council and Tesco Stores Limited due to a “problematic disagreement” concerning the non-conformity with policy of the planned retail development proposed for the site south of Cherryfield Drive in Kirkby.

Knowsley Council have, on the advice of independent retail consultants expressed a view to Tesco that the planned 'enabling' retail development would be unsustainable, inappropriately sited and of a scale that is in conflict with regional and local planning policy. Due to the sheer scale of the intended retail floorspace, all of which Tesco have made clear will need to be accepted in order for the proposed stadium to be ‘delivered,’ Knowsley Council also has concerns based on the detrimental impact and effects such a huge development would have on other local and regional centres.

As revealed earlier this week by KEIOC, the retail assessment, commissioned by Knowsley is expected to be handed to the neighbouring council's of Liverpool, St Helens, Sefton and West Lancs' who were all given leave to comment on the Tesco proposal on the understanding that an independent retail impact assessment, giving finer details of the impact of ‘Destination Kirkby' on their centres would be delivered by Knowsley MBC.

Once the retail impact assessment is assessed and cross referenced with a separate retail impact assessment jointly commissioned by Sefton and St Helens, the surrounding local authorities will formally comment on the Tesco proposal. Given Knowsley's view that “less convenience and comparison retail floorspace can be supported than the applicant's case contends,” it seems clear that all the neighbouring council's whose centres would be impacted by the ‘enabling' retail development, will be robustly objecting to the Tesco planning application.

Whilst Tesco state that they do not share the Council's view on how much new retail development is supportable and its possible effects on other centres and retail outlets. They do however concede that ‘elements are not in conformity with policy, albeit to differing degrees.' And that ‘in some instances the degree of non-conformity, according to the Council, is significant.'

Within yesterdays revised Financial Statement released by Tesco Stores Limited, the supermarket chain made it perfectly clear to both Knowsley Council and Everton Football Club that any decrease in the size of retail development would spell the end for the proposed stadium which in turn would impact on the positive regeneration of Kirkby town centre, in short, no retail, no stadium, no stadium, no regeneration;

‘Reducing the level of retailing reduces the level of cross subsidy that is available to fund the stadium, meaning that the stadium becomes unviable'.

This warning from Tesco was continued within the revised Planning Statement;

‘This represents something of a catch-22 situation – the benefits of the stadium can only be delivered if the ‘potential disbenefits' of it; needing to be supported by a considerable amount of new retail development, are accepted.'

And concluded here;

‘If the Council were to require the applicant to reduce the amount and type of retailing being proposed, the stadium would become unviable, and unless an alternative source of funding could be identified and secured to meet the short fall, the stadium development would not proceed.'

The KEIOC group has consistently challenged the pre-ballot statement by Keith Wyness that Kirkby Stadium was “deliverable.” It was patently obvious from the outset that the huge amount of planned retail for the small town of Kirkby needed to ‘enable' the stadium, was a clear departure from local, regional and national planning legislation. It seems that Knowsley MBC have finally come to the same conclusion.

Tesco Stores Limited have now upped the ante – ‘No retail - No stadium - No stadium – No regeneration.' Due to the position of powerlessness the board of directors of Everton Football Club have maneuvered themselves into, how Knowsley Council react to this warning from Tesco could well shape the future of Everton Football Club for generations to come.

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