Day 2 – Scheme does not comply with RSS
The morning of the second day of the public inquiry saw the continued cross-examination of Tesco’s planning expert Mr John Francis. As expected the questioning didn’t take long before the concerns surrounding the planning policy departures raised their head. Mr Stephen Sauvain, QC for Liverpool City Council, highlighted the non compliance with the Regional Spatial Strategy, a policy regular readers of the KEIOC website will be very familiar with. Mr Francis reluctantly admitted that whilst there were some deviations it was of some concern that Kirkby had in fact been ignored in the policy. This was not the case, Knowsley made several robust representations to the Government regarding this when the policy was under review; they were all dismissed but that clearly doesn’t prevent Knowsley and Tesco from ignoring the government and the wishes of five neighbouring authorities. Indeed the LCC QC, as he did yesterday, suggested that the agreement between Knowsley, Tesco and Everton led to the scrapping of the recently adopted UDP. Mr Francis claimed that it is the applicants case the development is there to meet the needs of 225,000 people as the desired residential quota of Kirkby, 80,000, has never been achieved. With regard to the claim that the football stadium will enhance the image of Kirkby Mr Francis, after struggling with his geography, didn’t appear to know where the Reebok or the Ricoh arena where, Mr Sauvain appeared to make his point that a stadiums name attracted the attention, not its location.
The counsel for the combined authorities continued in the same vein, focusing on Kirkby's current and projected position within the retail hierarchy, an element within the RSS, which is there to protect, previously agreed regional centres. Knowsley and Tesco appear to have their own version. With total disregard to the stated policy Mr Francis reiterated that the application does comply with the requirements of the RSS through meeting the needs of the community. That would be the needs identified in Knowsley's UDP and abandoned on the strength of the promises that yesterday Mr Francis admitted had no guarantees of delivery, specifically elements of phase 3 and all of phase 4, even if planning permission is forthcoming.
In keeping with the applicant's new position on the stadium and the size of the retail, Mr Francis refuted that there was an inter-relationship between the critical mass of retail and the stadium preferring to concentrate on the alleged benefits that the relationship would deliver to the community.
A resident of the Grange Estate brought up the spectre of the Environmental Impact Assessment in relation to their homes, information that was requested at the pre-inquiry meeting and is yet another piece of information whose non appearance joins a growing list of information to test the patience of the no nonsense Mrs Wendy Burden.
Finally Mr Dave Kelly of KEIOC requested that the alternative site assessment document should be disregarded owing to the fact that it was made after the elusive exclusivity deal was signed, this was declined. Finally Mr Francis once again struggled when asked if valley hills were a designated green space, “was that in Scotland Road?” queried Mr Francis. Lets hope he found his way home after a day on the ropes!