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Friday, November 28, 2008

Day 7 - The Cracks Are Appearing

Day seven of the Public Inquiry brought the applicants next witness, Graeme Tulley of DTZ, an expert on regeneration. It emerged that Everton are expecting an average attendance at the stadium of 44,000 for premiership games and six other events.

The planning inspector Mrs Wendy Burden enquired if there had been studies into what was the matchday spend currently spent in Liverpool; as usual this study hadn't been done.

Mr Tulley's own evidence was questioned by Mr Stephen Sauvain, QC for Liverpool City Council, he pointed out that even job creation development needs to fit a planning policy and that North Liverpool is as deprived as Kirkby. He explained further “In Kirkby, objective one had begun to make differences; differences which would happen with or without this development.” For Mr Tulley, however, the change needed to be faster. Mr. Sauvain reminded him of his own evidence, which states that the Town Centre has a low vacancy rate. This will increase until phase 4 is done, if ever.

Mr. Tulley's evidence aims to prove that retail has been used before to pump prime stadia. He cited the Millennium, Eastlands and the Emirates but Mr. Sauvain reminded him that they were not retail led. When Mr. Tulley insisted that they brought regeneration, it was put to him that Eastlands hadn't.

“Eastlands is a work in progress” he replied. Mr Sauvain pointed out “Cardiff is in a City Centre in fact all the examples given are in major cities so it's an unfortunate point that you are making isn't it?”

No impact study had been done on what will happen if EFC don't leave Goodison Park. As for extra income into Kirkby, it was pointed out to Mr. Tulley that fans wouldn't be spending money in the retail; fan money goes on betting, concourse food and drink. Mr. Tulley suggested there would be outside competition for this, to which Mr. Sauvain concluded that the only uplift is additional expenditure not already spent at GP.

When Mr. Sauvain told Mr Tulley that the project was dependent on EFC having the money to fund it, Mr. Tulley could only reply that “EFC have a pressing need.” Mr Sauvain stated that if EFC had to pull out, regardless of the 25 years in the Section 106 agreement, this scheme could still be successful.

The Reverend Tim Stafford asked Mr Tulley how a football stadium could reduce crime and fear of crime? These are major indicators of deprivation. Mr Tulley could only repeatedly answer that some people would welcome the regeneration. The vicar also failed to discover what was the positive benefit of Everton in the Community in Walton.

Mr Roger Lancaster then began his cross-examination; he stated that, in relation to the UDP, the scale, role and function of the development was inappropriate. That the council had failed to conduct an assessment of the Development Securities proposal for redevelopment on the site of the current town centre using a plan that was within the existing UDP. Mr Roger Lancaster continued, why had Tesco spent £65M? Was it in order to sterilise, develop now or develop in the future? As Tesco own the land in the existing town centre, that fits the UDP, why not analyse the benefits of Tesco developing this now? No answers were forthcoming, nor could Mr Lancaster obtain a decent answer to the question “ how will the stadium enhance the quality of life?” All that Mr. Tulley could offer was that other facilities will. Mr Lancaster pushed the witness “Can I have an answer?” “It's about job opportunities” to which Mr Lancaster, in search of his answer, replied, “It's a simple Question” Mr. Tulley could not or would not provide an answer. The Kirkby residents' quality of life would be enhanced with jobs but it emerged that, once again, no exercise had been done to find out why Kirkby people were not getting access to Kirkby jobs. Mr Lancaster, on a roll, continued to probe, “was Walton's image high profile because of Everton's presence?” Mr Tulley appeared unable to comment. “Eastlands, do people go there because of the stadium?” At last Mr Tully offered a response, “It's a work in progress…The Millennium…The O2…..” Mr Lancaster interjected “The Millennium is a national stadium and the 02 is not a football stadium, can you tell me has Westhoughton gone up in perception because of Bolton Wanderers?” Mr Tully chanced his arm “The Reebok is associated with Bolton” and Mr Lancaster promptly tore it out its socket “But Westhoughton is four miles from Bolton” Finally Mr Lancaster asked a question about bus and rail services, “Matters are still not squared with Merseytravel are they?” Mr Tully explained “there are plans for improvement in the Section 106 agreement” so that's a no then!

The inability of the applicants to justify the existence of the proposed massive development at Kirkby is becoming more and more apparent as each day progresses. Many more people are struggling to see the benefit to the long-term viability of Everton Football Club.

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