Day 6 – Apparently Kirkby is a non-place – discuss!
Day six saw Melvin Davis, a master planner from Broadway Malyan, the developer of the master plan for the applicants, inform the inquiry of some disagreements within the Knowsley camp with regard to the stadium design however he denied that the development was little more than a bunch of car parks and retail sheds.
Mr Stephen Sauvain, QC for Liverpool City Council enquired if the development was in an out of town style, that it wasn't a town centre plan and that it was aimed at achieving regional or sub-regional status, was it not? Mr Davis agreed. Mr Sauvain continued “we still don't know how big the store will be, with or without its mall and that the area South of Cherryfield Drive has been treated as part of the town centre from the start” adding that the looked like a retail park because it was one!
Mr Roger Lancaster then took his opportunity to question Mr Davis. Mr Lancaster established that the scheme had been in gestation in 2006, before Tesco owned any land in Kirkby; Mr Davis confirmed that he had been working on this since April 2006. Mr Lancaster then asked, “Had any checks been done to see if a smaller Tesco could fit on the North site?” “No” answered Mr Davis. Mr Lancaster then attempted to confirm the status of the development in planning terms; Mr Davis confirmed that it would be of regional significance.
The Rev Tim Stafford, vicar of St Chads, enquired what Mr Davis meant when he described Kirkby as “a non place”? Mr Davis explained that it lacks any form of cohesion; coming up Valley Road you have no sense that you're coming into Kirkby. When the Rev Stafford explained that people were proud of their current gateway, (which contains green space, trees and St Chads in the distance), Mr Davis suggested that this was a conversation for another day. The Reverend then asked what consultation had been conducted with the residents across Valley Road; predictably the answer was none.
To the casual observer of the inquiry the subtleties and nuances of the planning process are perhaps a mystery so just to explain the admission that the scheme is and always has been aimed at achieving “regional status” is very important in relation to agreed planning policies. In addition to this there is an ongoing disagreement of the measurement from Tesco's to St Chads parade, this will determine whether the proposed development is “edge of centre” or “out of centre” which will result in different criteria being applied. As one of our planning advisors explained, “this isn't a navigation around the planning policy, it's a total disregard”
Mr Davis next faced questions from Mr Trevor Skempton, urban design consultant and a fervent Evertonian. Mr Davis avoided Mr Skempton's first questions regarding the capability of the stadium to match Everton's ambition and future ability to compete with other top clubs, an ability to expand to 75,000 had been mentioned by Everton's previous CEO. Mr Skempton indicated that this design couldn't achieve this, as the filling in of the corners would impinge on local housing and there was also an agreement effectively binding Everton to the stadium for a period of twenty-five years; Mr Davis stated that he couldn't comment but explained that the corners would fit the footprint.
Mr Skempton asked about integration and permeability, the ability of the stadium to soak up people like stadia do at Goodison, Newcastle and Cardiff, one urban walk way, no designated car park, a bus park and limited access to the main road. Incredible. Have you accounted how it will operate, not releasing everyone at once? Mr. Davis explained that the transport people had gone over this in great detail.
Mr. Skempton's next questions surrounded the new urban design agenda for the next ten years, CABE having suggested a mix of uses, would encourage people to be around 24 / 7, how will this be delivered in the initial phases? Mr. Davis stated that they had attempted to bring in leisure uses such as food and beverage; it will change the perception of Kirkby. Mr Skempton responded that modern stadia should be stuffed full of other activities, what is the scope of this; Mr Davis indicated that the question should be asked to someone else.
When asked how the presence of the stadium will change the perception of Kirkby physically or in the media Mr. Davis explained that Kirkby will be the home of Everton, Kirkby will be mentioned in a positive light, it will be associated with Everton.
Mr Skempton then asked, in light of the previous answer, how the new stadium could justify the role it was being given, he suggested that the proposed stadium had no distinctive features, in fact “it looked more like a multiplex cinema than a stadium” Mr. Davis explained “It looks different because of the brief; not in the round. It has a functional brief, deliverable but not a ‘money no object' stadium.
So there we have it, confirmation that Everton will no longer be associated with the world famous maritime city of its birth, it will be associated with Kirkby, it will be associated with a cheap functional stadium on a retail park in the home of that other white elephant, the Ski Slope. If you listen carefully you can hear Sir John turning in his grave at the thought of this board turning a great football club into the laughing stock of the premier league.