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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Day 3 – Plenty of Questions – Very few answers

Day three dawned but unfortunately the planning inspector, Mrs Wendy Burden, had managed to come down with a bout of food poisoning; fortunately her two colleagues weren’t victims so the ordeal of cross examination continued for Mr Francis, the applicants planning witness.

Mr Francis confirmed that Everton could not leave the stadium for 25 years and that Tesco had a 999 head lease with Everton securing a 999 year sub lease for the stadium. When questioned about the groundwork required Mr Francis admitted that the ground would need compacting or excavating, a very costly process, but he was unable to confirm which would be required.

The planning inspectorate were keen to establish where the heart of the Kirkby centre would be if the new development went ahead, Mr Francis pointed to a general area that included a road crossing and a car park.

With regard to the stadium, once again the CABE report was quoted; Mr Francis declined to answer and explained that these questions need to be addressed to Mr Elstone. He couldn't comment on the cost of the stadium at this moment other than it would be based on the Cologne stadium.

It was said that the height of the Stadium would be 34m above the brook (the Environmental Impact report suggests that the stadium is 38.5 metres high), when asked by the inspector if the local residents, closest to the, Everton site, would see this Mr Francis explained that residents would “glimpse ” the structure, when pressed he admitted that they'd see it!!!!

The planning inspector then turned his attention to an area within the development known as Everton Walk, Mr Francis described this as the major access to bus and rail facilities explaining further that a car park was also sited there. The inspector suggested to Mr Francis “although he said walk it perhaps had all the characteristics of an alley” “more of a functional route” explained Mr Francis.

The inspectors attention was then drawn to the loss of football pitches in the Southdene area, it was explained that people using these facilities would have to travel to Westvale or Tower Hill. It was further explained that local rivalries could cause problems, as youths from Southdene would not be welcome in those other areas.

Returning to transport the tram made a fleeting appearance once again when Mr Francis was asked about the possibility of its resurrection. Mr Francis' answer was that this question was best directed towards an officer of Liverpool City Council but explained that while the proposition was dead remained a key aspiration. This will come as news to Liverpool Council as they have a report that indicated the priority is for North / South transportation within the city not East / West (to Kirkby).

The final batch of questioning surrounded the purchase of the existing town centre by Tesco and the fears that, once the building of the new retail and supermarket was completed, this area would be allowed to fall into decline. Mr Francis explained that this was not in Tesco's interest and that they would not have spent a considerable amount of money to purchase the town centre from Development Securities to simply leave it in its present state. It will be remembered that the previous owner had a rival plan that delivered the much needed redevelopment of Kirkby's town centre including an anchor supermarket, Asda, within the local UDP and compliant with the RSS.

With some signs of relief the cross examination of Mr Francis concluded. Lets hope the next witness for the applicant is as helpful to those opposing the scheme and that Mrs Burden makes a swift and full recovery

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