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Inquiry Reports

Monday, January 12, 2009

Day 19 - “Future treatment of Evertonian’s laid bare.”

The cross examination of Mr. Joe Ellis, the applicants transport expert, continued with Mr. Stephen Harrison, a resident of Kirkby, asking questions surrounding traffic management around the proposed development.

Stephen was told that two new sets of traffic lights would be introduced; at Bewley Drive and Valley Road and Junction 6 of the M57. Mr. Ellis didn't accept that this was a busy junction at the moment, that it didn’t provide traffic chaos and didn't require a roundabout, somewhat surprisingly, he felt that even at peak times the traffic flowed extremely well.

Stephen asked Mr. Ellis if he thought that roundabouts at motorway junctions were faster than lights, especially for dispersal. Mr. Ellis believed they were but lights would be needed to control the junction at Kirkby Row; Mr. Ellis that the pavement will not be widened for the entire length here, only partly.

Mr Ellis agreed with Stephen that the findings of a survey of fans travelling to Goodison Park confirmed that around 70 per cent travelled to the ground by car, explaning that the target at Kirkby would be to get no more than around 55 per cent of fans travelling by this car. Mr. Ellis continued with an explanation that most of the public transport on matchdays would be in addition to the usual services and that the concerns over train loading had been resoved following meetings with transport authorities. He explained that whilst the trains would be busy on matchdays they would be operating at safe levels and this had been confirmed by Merseytravel. Mr. Ellis confirmed that SDG had not spoken to Network Rail, only Merseytravel. When asked if there was any guarantee that Merseyrail would rip the timetable apart and start again for the stadium, he replied that 'there is no guarantee of anything in life'.

It is clear that the limited capacity on the rail system to Kirkby has led to the applicants playing down the use of trains as a method of transport for supporters travelling to the proposed stadium; referring to the national fans survey, Stephen asked if 10% of train users could be absorbed to which Mr. Ellis explained that he felt that an additional 25% could be absorbed. Mr. Ellis couldn't comment when asked what would happen if one train was cancelled. Moving on to the tricky subject of levels of passenger loading on trains Stephen asked Mr. Ellis to explain, “crush loading” but was told it was a matter of debate. It was established that it would be like Aintree when the Grand National was on - above the national standard but agreed to by the operator. When Stephen asked if additional loading of five people over the limit was dangerous Mr. Ellis replied that it was subjective Stephen then asked Mr. Ellis to confirm which would be the best mode of transport from Walton to Kirkby; Mr. Ellis informed Stephen that he would be better off using a different mode than the train. A puzzled Stephen informed Mr. Ellis that, in his opinion, it would be better and far quicker to take the train than the bus; after some consideration Mr. Ellis conceded the point and confirmed that the train would be better. It would be better if you could actually get on one!

On the subject of buses operated for the park and ride scheme Stephen raised the environmental question; Mr. Ellis explained that the bus companies transporting fans would operate under a contract which would stipulate a standard to ensure the vehicles were as environmentally friendly as possible, but that no assessment had been done on levels of emissions for empty return bus journeys or buses coming from afar, Yorkshire had been mentioned. Mr. Ellis confirmed that people living within the Controlled Parking Zone would receive parking permits free of charge; obviously these people should be extremly grateful.

Mr. Matthew Copeland, counsel for the combined authorities, asked if Knowsley Council would be making a payment to Sefton Council for the operation of the parts of the CPZ in those areas controlled by Sefton - Melling and Waddicar; Mr Ellis said he was not aware of how this would work but presumed there would be cooperation between the authorities.

Mr. John Barrett introduced Mr. Philip Sapiro to the inquiry; Mr. Sapiro is the applicant's expert on traffic planning and engineering.

Mr. Sapiro explained to the inquiry that it was not the intention of the council to encourage match traffic into the town so there would be limited opportunities for third parties to operate car parks for park and walk schemes primarily due to a lack of suitable sites, he pointed out that Kirkby was different to the area surrounding Goodison Park which offered many third party sites. Mr. Sapiro confirmed that, as it was council policy not to attract additional traffic to the town, no parking would be allowed on school property.

Demonstrating a sudden urge to comply with national policy Mr. Sapiro confirmed that it was desirable for such developments to ensure that transport arrangements were multi-modal, not just car based, and that the Highways Agency was content with the plans outlined for Destination Kirkby.

Mr. Sapiro conceded that whilst Kirkby residents had excellent access to Liverpool City Centre residents in other areas often have to travel into Liverpool City centre and back out to Kirkby and that this would likely have an impact on the numbers of people who chose to shop at Destination Kirkby. He agreed that car travel was more flexible; that Kirkby had good access to Liverpool by car and that other towns in the area had equally good access to motorway junctions.

On the matter of future transportation Mr. Sapiro explained that although the power to implement a tramline between Kirkby and Liverpool was in place until next year no funding had been secured for this project. He also failed to mention the Liverpool's priority is transportation issues surrounding travel along the north south axis of the city not west to east.

In closing Mr. Sapiro confirmed that the proposed CPZ around Kirkby would be more extensive than other schemes and that modern signage would enable the scheme to operate when matches are taking place.

Kirkby resident Stephen Harrison was first to cross-examine Mr. Sapiro. Mr. Harrison asked a series of questions that established the level of Carbon Dioxide emissions will increase when the matchday specials were operating and that if the Wigan platform was extended to accommodate six car trains then the same would have to happen at Orrell, Upholland and Rainford unless the trains had selective door opening and presumably passengers wishing to alight at those stations were seated or crush loaded into the first three carriages. They haven't really thought this out. When Stephen asked Mr. Sapiro how Wigan bound passengers would access the platform when it was full of Liverpool bound passengers he was informed “by careful management” and that the new north side platform at Kirkby station would be used on match days only and the costs were to be met by the applicants and Merseytravel When questioned about the tram Mr. Sapiro could not provide any guarantees saying that it would be a bonus.

Mr. Stephen Sauvain began his cross-examination by asking Mr. Sapiro if the number of people from Kirkby shopping in Liverpool would be reduced if this development went ahead. Mr Sapiro explained that his gut feeling led him to believe that this was true; he felt it was necessary to strike a balance between quantitive and qualitive analysis.

Mr. Sauvain pointed out that to get to Kirkby they, the shoppers, would have to go past other large retail centres. Mr. Sapiro explained that the key thing was that shoppers would make the trip for what was on offer but he agreed that there would “still be greater scope for comparing types of non-food goods and prices in Liverpool City centre.

Mr. Peter Fisher, Knowsley constituency Liberal Democrats, stated there would be unavoidable car usage as there were no direct trains from Prescot or Huyton, from which there were only 4 buses an hour. Such levels are comparable with an out of town Retail Park. Mr Sapiro agreed that there might be an increased number of car journeys with people living outside of Kirkby coming in to shop, but he said this had to be balanced with the large number of Kirkby residents, who currently had to travel some distance to shop, often by car, who would be able to shop locally if the development went ahead. Mr Sapiro went on to say that “the control of car parking and the attractiveness of public transport options were the key elements to controlling the number of people who chose to use their car to get to a particular location”.

Another way of looking at it of course would be to ensure that the size of the development was appropriate for the needs of a town the size of Kirkby, as defined in the UDP, then it wouldn't encourage people to make additional car journeys or additional journeys into and out of the regional centre as defined by the regional spatial strategy, Liverpool City centre.

Mr. Jim Gittins then cross-examined Mr. Sapiro on behalf of the Kirkby Residents Action Group. When questioned on the ability to increase the capacity at Headbolt Lane Mr. Sapiro advised that while the frequency couldn't be increased it might be possible, hypothetically, to store an extra train there.

On the issue of 14,000 fans walking along Bewley Drive to the Park and Walk sites, identified in the planning application, Mr. Sapiro said that it would be in the stadium management plan and there would be stewards to supervise the supporters.

Jim asked for further clarification surrounding guarantees that the transport plan would be implemented on time Mr. Sapiro identified clauses within the Section 106 agreement that insisted the crucial elements were in place before the stadium opened for business. Jim immediately responded "The S106 agreements at the Emirates had still not been adhered to, what guarantees are there for this scheme?" Mr. Sapiro explained that the Emirates development was considerably more expensive to carry out and that lessons had been learnt; everything in Kirkby must be in place before the stadium opens, especially the station upgrades.

As these upgrades are primarily for use when there are football stadium is in use, on approximately twenty six occasions a year, Jim asked “Could not making major improvements prior to the development, such as a permanent increase in the rail line's capacity, be seen as a missed opportunity?” Somewhat surprisingly Mr Sapiro replied “Knowsley Council's priority is to cater for the needs of its own residents, not to embark on costly measures that would be mainly for the benefit of people outside of the borough.” It may have escaped Mr. Sapiro's attention but the vast majority of Evertonians live in Liverpool, Wirral and North Wales, not Knowsley, and a retail park 400% bigger than that required to service the needs of the local community is clearly designed to attract shoppers from other major centres.

Mr. Platt was next to ask Mr. Sapiro questions on behalf of KEIOC. He asked how would they ensure that the numbers of people travelling by car to the stadium would be controlled. Mr Sapiro explained that there were various measures being considered to control the number of people coming into the town by car to visit the new stadium and that they intend to use vigorous marketing and publicity campaigns, pricing packages and policy elements to ensure success. He also explained that the CPZ was part of the package so that the car would have a negative impact on residents.

In response to questions on crowd arrival and departure dynamics, Mr. Sapiro stated that there was a greater spread in the time people arrived before a match than when they departed and that only 50% of supporters would arrive in the final hour before the game because, due to the CPZ, they would have to walk further than if they arrived earlier when they'd claim parking spaces closer to the stadium. Mr. Platt enquired as to what studies on existing practices at football matches were used in determining this hypothesis but once again, somewhat astonishingly, Mr. Sapiro explained that no surveys had been conducted; it was based on their experiences and was agreed with Steer Davies Gleave.

Mr. Platt enquired what would be the effect of fans being dropped off and picked up outside the ground before and after events; Mr. Sapiro felt this would have little impact.

He then enquired how the use of buses would be encouraged and Mr. Sapiro responded that whilst it wasn't intentionally planned to encourage bus use, the buses stopped 100 yards from the stadium and he felt this would encourage fans to use the bus service, while the car user is required the use of either park and walk or park and ride sites which would then necessitate a lengthy walk.

It is safe to say that discouraging car use is therefore being used to influence the use of buses, not that buses on their own would offer a more preferable alternative..

Returning to Destination Kirkby's preferred method for moving fans in and out of the area Mr. Platt enquired what was the capacity of the queueing reservoir at the Westvale bus park and was told that the capacity was not known but the size would be the length of 30 buses x 1 bus length. According to Mr. Sapiro's proof of evidence the Westvale Bus Park is expected to process approximately 19,500 fans.

Mr. Platt established that the reason for 3,000 being missing from the modal split was that this is the minimum amount of seats that must be supplied to away fans as per Premier League rules. Mr. Platt asked what would happen if Everton wanted to make up to 15% (7,500) of the stadium capacity available to away fans, the maximum amount available for cup games; Mr. Sapiro stated that the plans would have to be modified.

Mr. Platt then raised concerns that fans travelling to Liverpool by train using services from Chester, Ellesmere Port, New Brighton and West Kirby would be competing for seats with fellow fans at both Moorfields and Liverpool station. He felt that due to the passenger capacity on the Kirkby line being 3,800 per hour and up to 10,000 new regular fans expected at the stadium that fans would become more competitive with eachother for a place on the first train that is available.

He stated that the number of fans wishing to travel by train could increase if the proposed electrification of the service from Wrexham went ahead which would see regular services direct to to the Liverpool city centre loop from North Wales.

Mr. Platt also suggested that passengers boarding from as far as Sandhills would find it difficult to board and find space on the train; this problem would be exacerbated as supporters attempted to travel from stations closer to Kirkby. He continued that it would be problematic at rush hour on a weekday evening game (European games/cup games) as the train would be in demand by fans, commuters and those wishing to visit Fazakerly Hospital.

Mr. Sapiro responded that the plan anticipated staggered travel plans over a three hour period, Mr. Platt asked Mr. Sapiro, “So effectively you are predicting that people will begin to travel to games at 4:30pm for a 7:30pm kick off for example". Mr. Sapiro replied that he was predicting this but that 7:30 kick-offs are not as common any more.

Mr. Platt then questioned the validity of a table in Mr. Sapiro's proof (SUP/KMBC/P/4), which implied that 5% of fans surveyed based in South and London walk to the game. Mr. Platt read out a few more anomalies, seen below:

4% of fans surveyed in Lancashire/Scotland say they walk to the game?
5% of fans surveyed in Crewe and Midlands say they walk to the game?
2% of fans surveyed from South Wirral walk (across the River Mersey) to the game?

Mr. Platt also asserted that the taxi usage figures were also questionable.

Mr. Sapiro admitted there was a margin for error in surveys and raised the possibility of misunderstanding or mischevious fans.

Mr. Platt asked, in light of this revelation, if they were used when planning the revised transport strategy and should any weight was to be given to the figures? Mr. Sapiro explained that the figures were not considered when making the travel plan but admitted that the results were flawed and agreed that no weight should be given to the survey's figure.

Mr. Platt asked if Mr. Sapiro could expand on the statement relating to information on traffic flows that had been derived from the ARCADY computer program, (Assessment of Roundabout Capacity and DelaY), and were apparently in conflict to what the previous witness, Mr Ellis, claimed.

Mr Sapiro preferred to simply restate his proof of evidence; “Even where significant queuing is predicted, the assessments may underestimate the extent of this – for example, a large queue is expected on the Cherryfield Drive approach to the Valley Road roundabout post-match – however, ARCADY assumes that the full width of the give way line can be used – but if much of this traffic wishes to make one movement at the junction (most will want to turn left to access M57), then the true capacity will be less than the ARCADY assessment predicts (as the right hand part of the give way line will be under-utilised), so queues can be expected to be significantly greater than predicted."

Mr. Platt asked Mr. Sapiro if he felt the transport strategy was sustainable and asked if he felt using buses from as far as Fleetwood and Manchester could be seen as a sustainable transport strategy for the next 25 years seeing as that is the minimum time period that Everton will be contracted to the stadium.

Mr Sapiro explained that sustainable transport was designed to encourage people to travel while minimilising damage to the environment, he also stated his belief that we could be driving hydrogen driven cars by then and that these proposed strategies would be repeated at other stadia in the future.

Finally, Mr. Platt then asked if he felt that a transport generator should be built in an area which currently lacks the provision to cope with it's demands. Mr. Sapiro claimed that it should and often areas with the provision already in place are wasting resources.

KEIOC feel that it is worth mentioning that many people who have studied stadium locations have concluded that stadia should be built where there is a suitable transport provision already in place.

Mr. Roger Lancaster, counsel for the combined authorities, was next to cross-examine Mr. Sapiro. Mr. Lancaster asked about the work conducted to establish the CPZ. Mr Sapiro said that the CPZ would be agreed following consultation with the public. He said “further investigation beyond informed assessments, had not yet been made about the cost of the scheme as this was thought unnecessary until the future of the development was decided.”

Mrs Burden then Rupert Warren, counsel for Tesco, sought to provide clarification that Sefton Council would not have to fund the CPZ within their boundaries.

The next witness for the applicant was Mr. Gary Halman, a chartered surveyor and town planner, specialising in planning and environmental aspects. Mr. John Barrett, counsel for Tesco, led Mr. Halman through his evidence.

Mr Halman explained that recent additions to the Regional Spatial Strategy and the Liverpool City Region (LCR) priorities, the Secretary of State has added the particular need to address worklessness and achievable regeneration. He explained that Kirkby would be one of these, a suburban area in serious need of regeneration and that these amendments, made in September last year, stressed the importance of addressing the needs of the outlying areas of the Liverpool City Region. He agreed these developments were positive endorsements of Tesco's work to get the long term jobless into employment and that the Regional Development Framework had also been amended to include the imperative to address the needs of deprived areas.

Mr Halman explained that Knowsley had been highlighted as one of the most deprived areas in the region and the Secretary of State had accepted this view, it was his opinion that this may have accounted for the recent amendments to regional planning policies and that representations had been made to the Secretary of State to address this need in the Liverpool City Region.

Mr Halman explained that these amendments made it clear that development “of an appropriate scale” to address regeneration were required.

Mrs Burden closed the inquiry for the day.

This scheme was first envisaged in 2006; at that time the economy was buoyant, Kirkby had just adopted a new development plan and local jobs and prosperity were exhibiting positive trends. The desperation to deliver this development has plumbed new depths by now selling itself as the pre-planned saviour to Kirkby's economic problems, it is an embarrassing attempt to exploit the current economic situation in order to secure a development that is for the benefit of the few at the expense of the many.

For Evertonians, the saddest aspect of this whole debacle is the involvement of Everton. The inaccessibility of the proposed stadium has been laid bare and the proposed treatment of the 47,000 supporters that Everton expect to arrive and depart from the proposed stadium has been laid bare. Those individuals, left at the club, who are responsible for Everton's involvement in this increasingly desperate scheme should hang their heads in shame as this is not a future legacy for generations of Evertonians to come nor is it in keeping with the principles of the club's founding fathers.

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