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Monday, December 1, 2008

Day 8 – A Bad Day at Cherry Meadows for Stadium Plans

The day began with the continued examination of Mr Graeme Tulley, the applicant’s regeneration witness from DTZ, by Mr Roger Lancaster, the barrister for the combined authorities of Sefton, West Lanc’s and St Helens. Mr Lancaster probed Mr Tulley on the issues of deliverability and the effect on the deprived area of Liverpool surrounding Goodison, Walton. Somewhat incredibly, Mr Tulley explained that the applicants had conducted no such study. Due to the fact that Liverpool is even more deprived than Knowsley this is somewhat remarkable seeing the applicants are making a big deal of regenerating deprived communities through the construction of a massive retail park and a stadium designed to deliver an additional £6,000,000 to a private company. The Government table below would appear to indicate that Knowsley are improving without such an intervention.

Rank 2007 2004
1 Liverpool Liverpool
2 Hackney Manchester
3 Tower Hamlets Knowsley
4 Manchester Tower Hamlets
5 Knowsley Hackney
6 Newham Islington
7 Easington Easington
8 Islington Nottingham
9 Middlesbrough Hull
10 Birmingham Middlesbrough

Mr Tulley avoided answering a question on Everton's legacy for Walton indicating that this would be an issue for the club to deal with. Mr Lancaster closed by pointing out to the inquiry that the potential combined loss of new jobs in Skelmersdale and St Helens, if this development were to be given approval, needs to be a material consideration.

Mr Peter Fisher, Knowsley Constituency Liberal Democrats, enquired about Tesco's job guarantee scheme, especially when Tesco, like all companies, need to comply with the equal opportunities guidelines so that in reality there were no guarantee of jobs for the people of Kirkby. Mr Tulley was unable to offer an opinion on this matter, which was also the case when Mr Fisher asked why Arsenal and Everton has not brought down the indices of multiple deprivation in their respective areas of Islington and Walton? Mr Tulley continued his 100% consistency of being unable to answer when Mr Fisher continued to ask questions of him surrounding the evidence of the viability of the building they were standing in, it is scheduled for demolition under this scheme, and the ability of Everton to get 47,000 fans to the proposed stadium.

The fifth witness for the applicants was Mr Alan Black, an expert on the commercial aspects of the proposal; anyone interested in Mr Black's evidence can read it here:

Mr Black has supplied additional letters to appendix TEV/P/6/1. These are letters from Boots, Tushingham Moore (HMV), Brantano Footwear, Next, Marks and Spencers, JJB Sports and Pizza Hut amongst others, Mr Black admitted many of these were present on retail parks but explained, “they were also present in town centres.” There was also a similar letter from Arcadia confirming their interest in a store in “Cherry Meadows”.

The Arcadia Group is the UK's largest privately owned clothing retailer, owning seven of the high street's best-known fashion brands they have more than 2,500 outlets. Multi-billionaire Sir Philip Green owns Arcadia and is a very close friend of both Everton Chairman Bill Kenwright and alleged director of Everton Football Club Robert Earl. Bill Kenwright described Sir Philip as his friend and therefore a friend of all Evertonians at the recent Everton EGM where he also stated that he had no knowledge of Arcadia having an interest in Destination Kirkby. After the mysterious resignation of Mr Keith Wyness, on the eve of the announcement of the call in of this scheme, Sir Philip, accompanied by Robert Earl, raced across the Mediterranean in his powerful £32M 208ft yacht “Lionheart” from Sardinia to Puerto Andratx, on the south west coast of Majorca, to confront Mr Wyness who had been complaining to the press that outside interference with the management processes at Everton contributed to his resignation. More recently Sir Philip was seen dining in London with financier and self-styled football club guru Ms Amanda Staveley and major aAim investor Simon Cowell.

Mr Stephen Sauvain, QC for Liverpool City Council, first examined Mr Black. He enquired if Tesco had a Plan B in the event of planning permission not being secured. He managed to establish that there was an opportunity to improve the retail offer of the existing town centre and that the multiple nationals had never been attached to this size town before. Curiously of all the letters of support from retailers confirming interest there were none in support for buildings surrounding the existing town centre, the later phases of the development, only letters of support for the units south of Cherryfield drive. Mr Sauvain continued probing the enabling element of the development, querying if the development without the Stadium would be successful, Mr Black, remembering the script, stated, “it was all or nothing”. Mr Sauvain persisted, “this £52M cross-subsidy that was going towards the stadium, the stadium would be costing the scheme money?” “It's a cost item, yes” replied Mr Black, but couldn't explain the cross subsidy even though he was appearing as an expert witness for the application on the commercial aspects of the proposal.

The acerbic Mr Sauvain, clearly bemused, enquired if there was a witness he could call to explain and examine as the word “enabling” had been used fifty times in the planning application! Mr Clarkson, QC for the applicants, sprang to his feet shouting that “they were not running an enabling case”, which must have further confused the Everton officials and members of the public present believing that they were sure that they'd been told that the critical mass was needed to provide the cross-subsidy for the stadium. Mr Clarkson elucidated that no witness would be brought forward which encouraged the droll Mr Sauvain to state that “he was anxious to understand this as the application was littered with references to it” All Mr Black could mumble was “the desire to attract as much retail as possible was to achieve critical mass” Mr Sauvain, now in full flow, continued by quoting directly from the DTZ Report, (2.3) “no stadium, no retail; no large retail no stadium” taunted Mr Sauvain much to the discomfort of the applicants.

Mr Sauvain continued with his observations “this document was written before the size of floorspace was reduced but stores are still interested now, even though they said then that the scheme had to be of that size for them to come, are you saying Mr Black that if it was further reduced they still would not come? Mr Black offered “If you took anymore floorspace off Tesco they couldn't sell all that they needed to attract investor confidence” Mr Sauvain quickly responded “I assume these letters were requested to say that the quantum was important?” “Are you suggesting that they were told what to write?” replied Mr Black, Mr Sauvain asked him directly “were they?” Unfortunately no answer was forthcoming.

The questioning continued over the placing of the two key anchors and them being so far from the Town Centre. “Shouldn't one be at the other end, closer to the Town Centre, to offer the dumb-bell effect with a Marks & Spencer in there that would also act as an anchor?” An unanswered Mr Sauvain continued “There would be little incentive for people to go to the North from the South. Furthermore it transpires no assessment has been made of the market footfall; also no survey of Tesco customers using markets had been conducted” Moving on to the matter of the acquisition of land from the Archdiocese Mr Black stated that he couldn't help with the date that Tesco would be acquiring the land. Mr Sauvain pointed out that the land off Cherryfield Drive was essentially a ransom strip and that the store couldn't open until the got the land, Mr Black confirmed that it was the case that the link had to be in place.

Just when Mr Black thought his ordeal was over Mr Roger Lancaster, barrister for the combined authorities, began his questioning; rhetorically he stated, “Stores like Debenhams and John Lewis wouldn't be likely to come to a town the size of Kirkby would they?” and continued “this size of development is for the cross-subsidy of £52M to go into someone else's pocket, isn't it?” A shaken Mr Black retorted, “No, the size of the retail is to regenerate” without hesitation Mr Lancaster came back with “but this development, is it regenerating or creating a new town centre?” Mr Black “Both” “But if only phase one happens that won't regenerate Kirkby Town Centre will it?” asked Mr Lancaster. “Yes, that right” admitted Mr Black ominously. A clearly upbeat Mr Lancaster pointed out that St Modwen Properties PLC and Development Securities had Asda and Morrisons lined up as anchor stores and these schemes would have regenerated the existing Town Centre, so there is a clear indication that there is interest in redeveloping Kirkby's Town Centre” It must also be said that these plans would have been achieved within the UDP and therefore would comply with current regional and national planning guidelines thereby avoiding an incredibly expensive public inquiry.

Mr Black couldn't answer many more questions as he was new to the post and he also remembered that the person who prepared the DTZ report was on maternity leave!!!

Mr Peter Fisher, Knowsley Constituency Liberal Democrats, enquired, “Isn't all or nothing, as Roger Tym and Partners pointed out, ruling out a viable alternative for a Tesco store in the North of the Town Centre?” With absolute consistency Mr Black replied, “It was all or nothing”. A phrase that's rapidly becoming something of a mantra for the applicants.

Finally John Fleming for the Kirkby Residents asked if the project had been given the name “Cherry Meadows?” Mr Black replied that it must have been an error!

Next week the weakest link in the project comes under scrutiny, Messrs Sauvain and Lancaster must be salivating at the thought.

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