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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Day 27 – Destination Kirkby – Inappropriate, against need and scale of the town

Unfortunately Mrs Burden was suffering from a sore throat this morning; her colleague Mr Jackson conducted the day’s proceedings.   

Tony Brennan, secretary of Kirkby Residents in Support of Progress (KRISP), addressed the inquiry.

Mr Brennan informed the inquiry that he had lived and worked in Kirkby for fifty two years and he wanted the Inspector and the Secretary of State to be made aware that many people felt these proposals would inject life into Kirkby and put it on the map as a place where people wanted to live, work and visit. He explained that there was a need for a food superstore and a desperate need for jobs, he also wanted the inquiry to understand the value of the work done by Everton in the Community,

Mr Brennan explained that Kirkby still faced many challenges – high unemployment and poor health to name but a few, pointing out that there were real needs in the town that had to be addressed to help young people to sustainable careers and that this proposal gave the town more opportunities; any delay would risk losing the potential benefits of Destination Kirkby.

In Mr Brennan's opinion the inquiry had given local people the chance to have their voices heard and that KRISP was formed to make sure that the silent majority were heard at the inquiry.

Next to speak in favour of the application was Cathy Toner, a local resident and community activist. She explained that she had lived in Kirkby since 1954 and spoke of the improvements that had been made to the town over the years. She said the loss of green space over the years had led to the creation of schools, roads and transport links that had made a significant difference.

She explained that major businesses such as Birds Eye came to the town, creating lots of jobs before the factories closed and the jobs went. A curious Dot Reid (the lady who is fighting a CPO and lodged a planning application for the site of Terry Leahy's house) looked on as it was explained that the people of Kirkby were proud of their homes and their children, although some were barely keeping their heads above the parapet (Or presumably a roof over their heads if some get their way).

Somewhat surprisingly she said she did not want a stadium but that there was no alternative for the town.

Local taxi firm owner, Mr McVeigh, also spoke in favour of the development; he felt the proposals could lead to him hiring a further 100 drivers for his company which had been set up as a co-operative in the area.

Brian Caulfield, owner of Laser Electrics in Kirkby town centre, was another who spoke in favour of the proposals. He recalled when the centre had thrived but now it had declined, the town centre had a poor image and needed investment to tempt the types of shops that Kirkby had been crying out for. Clearly a fan of Tesco's much debated business methods he suggested that Tesco could not be blamed for the shops that had already closed down, he said competition had to be accepted as part of life, particularly in retail and said a lack of customers had killed off these businesses, not Tesco. He explained that a lack of choice in the town centre had forced people to shop elsewhere and previous landlords had not tackled this problem. He had started his business in the 1970s and moved to the indoor market in the town centre.

Showing great wisdom and foresight he said the indoor shops had worried the outdoor market traders yet both traded alongside each other now, proving anything was possible if there was a desire to make it work.

He explained to the inquiry he had established the Official Kirkby Traders Association (OKTA) to give a voice to those who were not afraid of competition and wanted to move forward. He said he “had signed up” 299 people in support of these aims.

He had also canvassed opinion amongst shop workers who welcomed the prospect of new opportunities. Conveniently forgetting about Stonebridge Cross and with a remarkable lack of understanding of the basic concepts of the planning polices that had been discussed in the preceding weeks at the inquiry he said he thought it was hypocritical of nearby authorities to oppose the plans while they developed their own retail offer.

His opinion was that “the redevelopment of Kirkby offered an alternative to travelling into Liverpool and would stop the migration of custom from Kirkby. The EFC stadium would attract people from outside the region. He said EFC fans had already voted to relocate to Kirkby. He said he hoped the vocal minority who were opposed to the plans would not distract the inquiry.

Mr. Caulfield was cross-examined by Tom Norman of the (Original) Kirkby Traders Association (KTA). Mr Norman asked why he thought a new development south of the Town Centre would help when it was 1/2 to 1 mile away, Mr. Caulfield replied that Tesco money was needed to build a new one. Asked how 50 new units would attract people to the Town Centre Mr Caulfield replied that 1/2m wouldn't be a problem. People travel further than that now to go to Liverpool. He was asked what he meant by 'hidden agenda', Mr Caulfield said that people who didn't want EFC in Kirkby were telling him his shop would close down. He was then asked what questions he asked to get 299 names in favour, he replied that he sought out people in favour of regeneration, people who thought they weren't being represented.

Mr. Tony Barton next cross-examined Mr. Caulfield. He asked why he thought the Town Centre was in decline when it attracts shops such as Games Station? Mr. Caulfield replied that you'd have to ask them.

Tony asked why the OKTA was set up as the name KTA had already been taken? He said he had to give it a name that he felt represented a different point of view. He agreed this did not imply that the other Kirkby Traders Association was unofficial. Tony then asked why he hadn't mentioned Tesco in the list of shops that had closed; Mr. Caulfield replied that he didn't know Tesco had ever been in the Town Centre.

Tony next asked about his mentioning of rising rents, he was asked who the landlord was. Mr. Caulfield replied it was now Tesco, but they had just taken over the existing rents and didn't dictate current rents.

Inspector Jackson asked if Mr. Caulfield was talking about his own rent and if Tesco were his landlord. Yes, answered Mr. Caulfield.

When Tony asked why he had no concerns about the problems with transport and anti-social behaviour, Mr. Caulfield replied that he thought the problems won't be as bad in Kirkby as at Goodison Park and that it won't be as bad as people say. He thought the transport links to Kirkby would be the envy of other premiership clubs but that there might be some congestion. He stated that he believes KRAG supporters are the minority; he voted in the entrance poll three times.

Dave Kelly cross-examined Mr Caulfield on behalf of KEIOC.

When was the OKTA formed? He said this happened after the pre inquiry hearing. Dave put it to him that the group was formed for the inquiry but Mr. Jackson intervened by questioning if this was relevant. Mr. Caulfield agreed he was an Evertonian but said he had not had a vote in the EFC poll on the move. He said the EFC fans had previously voted to leave Goodison Park for the golf course in Knowsley, Kings Dock in Liverpool and now Kirkby. He claimed this was proof the majority of fans were willing to move.

David Dodd spoke on behalf of KRISP who are in favour of the proposals.

Mr Dodd explained he was “Chairman of Kirkby Small Firms Forum which was set up nine months ago to help maximise the chances of local people accessing the job opportunities created by the new development and create others as a result of the regeneration. He confirmed he had received help from Tesco in this regard.” He stated that without Destination Kirkby, these jobs would be lost. He said local people were already feeling the strain of the current economic downturn and this would be exacerbated if this proposal was lost.”

Mr. Dodd was cross-examined by Tom Norman of Kirkby Traders Association; Tom's first question was about tendering for work. Mr. Dodd told the inquiry that Tesco had put him in touch with the Buckingham group, they had met and had guaranteed him that companies he “put their way” would be considered in the tendering process and claimed that any builder would give their right arm to get work right now. There was, however, no guarantee from Tesco.

Tom then asked who will use the extra taxis (100 new jobs put forward by Newline Taxis). With a straight face Mr. Dodd replied that he had asked people on the Industrial Estate and they had said their wives would go to Tesco on a Friday and then get a taxi home if they didn't ring their husband to come and get them!

Finally Tom asked if he had received any monies, or was an agent of Tesco; Mr. Dodd replied no, he'd put life on hold, but did admit to the inquiry that his own company 'Oakfield Project' would get the job of dismantling Goodison Park.

Tony Barton was next to cross-examine Mr Dodd on behalf of the Kirkby residents (KRAG)

    Tony asked Mr Dodd what his role was in getting jobs for local people?

Mr Dodd explained that he was acting as a go between, between local people who wanted to work and companies looking for staff. He said he wanted to help local companies make these jobs available to the people who had left school with few qualifications but who had experience of work and wanted to work.

Tony asked Mr Dodd what he meant by schools failing people? Mr. Dodd replied that this project was to target 'hands-on' people, builders etc. Tony pushed on with the fact that if schools were failing, that was the fault of the local education authority.

In response to a question on the issue of security and anti-social behaviour, Mr. Dodd explained that he had told Tesco about the problem in the Golden Eagle. Tony pointed out, as they own it, they should have done something about it. It was being mentioned in network meetings.

On the subject of anti-social behaviour that will come, Mr. Dodd replied that these kids need jobs now and without this development many companies in the area would go under. He said he had asked local traders in the town centre if they would feel threatened by the new development and they had told him they didn't.

Mr Dodd confirmed he would be willing to work with KRAG or any other group after the inquiry to make regeneration in Kirkby happen.

Dave Kelly from KEIOC then cross-examined Mr Dodd.

Dave asked where and was Mr. Dodd's business now located? Mr. Dodd replied that his business was called the Oakfield Project and was in Kirkby, or will be soon. (It's actually in Anfield)

Dave stated that he was impressed by the hard work Kirkby Small Firms Forum had done to secure jobs for local people and asked why it was formed?

Mr Dodd said it was set up to make sure that as much work as possible that came to Kirkby, stayed in Kirkby.

Dave replied by explaining that most companies had a list of suitable companies that tender for work Mr. Dodd explained that these developers had said they will try to circumnavigate this to allow more access from local Kirkby firms. (in breech of European employment law). When Dave pointed out that this work was in fact already awarded Mr. Dodd replied that this had gone over his head. Dave asked if all interested companies had to go through him Mr. Dodd replied, yes, that's correct.

Dave next turned his attention to the estimated 100 jobs that would be coming to Kirkby as a result of Everton moving to the town, where were these jobs likely to be? Mr. Dodd explained that Remploy would be getting the jobs…..making cabinets etc. Dave asked if they would be new jobs or people currently working there? Mr. Dodd replied that they would need to take on new people.

Asked about spin offs and apprenticeships, Mr. Dodd anticipated that the Oakfield Project would employ about 30 from Kirkby College, with most of their time spent on site, working with experienced construction workers and one day a week in Kirkby College. Mr. Dodd didn't know what the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) was or that it was a Government body. Dave closed his cross-examination by stating that there was nothing to substantiate any of these job numbers, no reply was recorded from Mr. Dodd.

Mr. Edward Fraughan, a local resident opposed to the development, addressed the inquiry.

Mr. Fraughan made a point about a friend being beaten up last week for walking along with a LFC carrier bag. He said 10,000 cars could be attracted to Kirkby on match days and, as a former driving instructor, he predicted this could cause traffic chaos. He was concerned that the ancient St Chad's Church would not be available for weddings on match days because of the traffic problems and that the loss of green space, what he described as the jewel in the Kirkby crown, meant that children would have less space to play; he asked Tesco to develop in the town centre and leave the green open spaces alone.

Mr Fraughan claimed that the KMBC consultation was flawed and a sham. He told the inquiry he had conducted a survey on his estate, 233 out of 237 didn't want the development as it stood.

Mr. Fraughan told the inquiry that there had been insufficient opportunity to express concern at the proposals and claimed local councillors had not attended meetings on the scheme. Knowsley CEO, Sheena Ramsay, had a meeting stopped at Brookfield School and tried to stop another at St. Chad's Church.

Mr. Fraughan wouldn't trust councilors to represent him; they'd built a Leisure Centre without disabled access and a Ski Slope facing the wrong way.

He said he wanted to leave his house to his children and grandchildren in an area that was similar to what it was now.

In response Mr Barrett pointed to the findings of the KMBC consultation that were available to the inquiry; those would be on the consultation that identified over 90% of people who attended were against the stadium development.

Mr Scott, another local resident, spoke against the proposals.

Mr Scott said he retired to Kirkby six years ago. He was amazed when planning approval was granted after the consultation period as Knowsley Council said would influence their decision. He felt it had not as the council had ignored the results of the consultations. His opinion was that Tesco wanted a huge supermarket and Everton wanted to enhance their chances of being sold to a rich buyer. He said regeneration was not on the agenda.

It was his opinion that Knowsley's Council Tax would rise to pay for external policing on match days and he pointed to the increase in pollution that would follow the stadium and shopping development.

Mr Scott stated that the demolition of Eagle Court was a crime against a community. He said the numbers game on new jobs did not add up and asked why George Howarth MP didn't just put an artillery range along Valley Rd…. it'd create jobs. He closed by calling for this proposal to be rejected.

Michael Gallagher another local resident, who was against the proposal, addressed the inquiry

He explained that while he was keen for regeneration he did not want a stadium that would spoil the green space that had attracted him to the area 40 years ago. He used valley hills regularly for exercise purposes and that wildlife and beautiful wildflowers had returned showing the quality of the River Alt was improving.

He felt that the football stadium and match day crowds would have a detrimental effect on the area. He said St Chad's church was a popular location for christenings, weddings etc but these wouldn't be possible on match days, people will need 2 years of football fixture before arranging marriages.

He was concerned about the volume of fans that would be attempting to travel home by train, people already queue at the station, and there are massive queues when an event is on in Liverpool.

Mr. Stephen Sauvain, QC for Liverpool City Council, introduced his witness Mr. Andrew Pepler, an expert in retail planning.

Mr Sauvain explained to the inquiry that Mr Pepler has been advising LCC on the contraventions to PPS 6 that made clear that changes should come through the development plan route.

Mr. Pepler explained that catchment areas should be realistic and well related to the size and function of the development and thought that this proposal did not meet the appropriateness of scale and accessibility by public transport. He explained that the Regional Spatial Strategy identified Kirkby within the third priority of centres.

With regard to Knowsley's replacement UDP (KRUDP), he highlighted a number of references to the need for appropriateness of scale and the position of Huyton, Prescot and Kirkby in the retail hierarchy. There was a requirement that no town centre should overtake another.

Mr. Pepler told the inquiry that he had seen nothing to indicate Kirkby required a development of this scale and that as a town of approximately 40,000 its catchment area would be zone one, the town of Kirkby and therefore he could not see it as appropriate. He described the report by DTZ as deeply flawed in relation to the need for non-food outlets.

He explained the sheer size of the development would require taking market share from areas outside zone one and this was “not consistent with the role and function of Kirkby” He thought the turnover of the scheme indicated its scale – in relation to non-food, an uplift of £90m for a town centre that had a current turnover of £40m was significant and not appropriate to Kirkby's role.

He thought that what was being proposed sought to draw from the other zones (areas further away from Kirkby) in “quite a dramatic way” and this was not appropriate to its role.

Mr Patrick Clarkson, QC for the applicants, began his cross-examination.

Mr. Clarkson wanted Mr. Pepler to agree that Destination Kirkby would have a regenerating effect on Kirkby Town Centre. Mr. Pepler could only say that Destination Kirkby won't assist regional centres in going forward; Liverpool One was brought forward with confidence in the plan led system.

It was agreed there would be a 10% negative effect on Broadway, as well as Wigan, Widnes and Southport.

Mr. Clarkson then wanted to know if the cross-subsidy to the stadium should be given weight, given that it's a regeneration factor. Mr. Pepler asserted that it had to be weighed against need and scale of the town; Mr Clarkson muttered that this had now become something of a “mantra”.

This argument went back and forth three times before Mr. Sauvain joined in and suggested that if Mr. Clarkson was pursuing the matter to ascertain that it should be given weight, then he is pursuing an enabling argument; therefore the argument was on a false basis.

Mr. Clarkson continued with the argument that the substantial contribution to the stadium should be given weight if it is within policy. Mr. Sauvain continued to argue this was an enabling argument.

Mr. Pepler pointed out that to outweigh policy with substantial subsidy is enabling.

Mr. Clarkson said that without Bellefield, a contribution had been lost due to it being turned down at an inquiry that meant there was now a funding urgency.

Mr. Barrett now took up the cross-examination on behalf of Knowsley Council.

Mr. Barrett attempted to establish that Kirkby will only move up a few places in the regional hierarchy and will stay 3rd priority, therefore it doesn't really matter that much in the Regional Spatial Strategy.

Mr. Pepler replied that it did matter; an extra 50,000sq m is of inappropriate scale. In closing, it was established that no weight would need to be given to the cross-subsidy; enabling is a policy issue, which is a different matter.

Mr Sauvain clarified a few points in the evidence given by Mr Pepler.

In relation to RDF1 Mr Pepler explained that named centres could not be compared to Kirkby as they were major sub regional centres and large-scale developments within them would be appropriate. He further explained that the policy specifically stated that an unnamed centre could not be viewed in a similar way.

In light of the recent refusal for planning permission to build housing on the club's training ground. Mr Sauvain asked the inquiry for clarification on Everton's funding proposals for their contribution to their new stadium. In an about turn Mr Clarkson hastily told the inquiry that it now appeared that the applicant's position had not changed and the funding arrangements for the stadium were not now more urgent. He pointed to Everton's chief executive, Robert Elstone's proof of evidence that described a number of possible funding options. KEIOC would suggest the inclusion of the purchase of a Euro millions lottery ticket as a suitable addition to that list.

Mr. Peter Fisher, of Knowsley Constituency Liberal Democrats, introduced Knowsley Councillor Mr. Fred Fricker, the first elected member to give evidence at the inquiry.

Mr. Fisher asked, “What was his opinion of the consultation into the proposals' carried out by Knowsley Council?” Mr. Fricker answered that he felt there appeared to be overwhelming evidence that public opinion was against the stadium.

Mr. Fisher then asked, “Why did you seek a referendum on this scheme?” Mr Fricker explained that some months before, the councillors had been led to believe by the leader of council, Mr. Ronnie Round, that the public would decide this application. (It should be noted that Cllr Round infamously stated that the residents of Kirkby would not be getting a referendum as the issues surrounding the scheme were too complicated for them to understand; which would indicate that the councillors would understand them!)

Mr. Fisher asked Mr Fricker, whose ward is in Huyton, “What would be the impact of the expected trade draw from Huyton to Kirkby of around £5.58million following this proposal? Mr. Fricker explained that this would have a massive impact on Huyton town centre and feared there would be a loss of jobs as a result. He further explained that he had not seen any evidence that the Asda store in Huyton was overtrading. He shopped there and it was always easy to get a car parking space. “Huyton town centre was dominated by charity shops, fast food outlets, and discount shops, there were no quality shops and as a result he feared further detraction of trade would be very damaging to the centre. There was a 19% vacancy rate at Huyton; the national average is 11%.

    Mr. Fisher enquired, “were you aware that the proposed site for the stadium was not brown field?

Cllr Fricker replied “The Councillors were not initially informed that the proposed site wasn't brown field; they rely on the evidence of officers and their concerns came through clearly: the proposal is in conflict with policy and is not of sound design.

Mr. Fisher: “Did the report presented to the planning committee by KMBC officers influence the vote taken?”

Mr. Fricker explained “Councillors were advised by officers and relied on their data and he felt it would have an impact on the councillors' decision. He gave considerable weight to this advice and it eventually led to him taking the decision he did. The concerns of the officers were coming through on nearly every page; the planning committee members were being reminded to be careful in their decision.”

Mr. Patrick Clarkson, QC for the applicants, commenced his cross-examination of Cllr Fricker.

Mr. Clarkson asked Cllr Fricker whom he was representing. Mr. Fricker told him that, he appeared before the Inquiry on his own behalf and as a Knowsley Councillor; though he was the party whip, he didn't invoke it as there is no official position.

Mr. Clarkson asked if he thought all those who voted in favour were wrong but Mr. Fricker insisted that it was their right but he was standing by his decision. He agreed he was the only one to oppose the plans.

Mr. Clarkson next put it to Mr. Fricker that the other Councillors had read the evidence and voted in favour; Mr. Fricker put it to Mr. Clarkson that the evidence was overwhelmingly against the proposal and perhaps some Councillors may not have read it.

Mr. Fricker also informed the inquiry that people wanted a ballot. He said it was recommended by Government that on any major decisions, councils could call a ballot. Councillors wouldn't talk to people and none has submitted documents to the inquiry in favour of the proposal. Mr. Clarkson informed the inquiry that the council leader has, 18 Kirkby ward members, Cllr. Smithson (Lib Dem), chair of the planning committee and 4 other members had.

Mr. Fisher asked to see them and asked why they hadn't been submitted to the inquiry?

Mr. Jackson, the planning inspector, asked for them to be released. Mr. Barrett had them and blamed the programme officer.

The letters were made available the next day.

Mr Fisher clarified a few additional points with Mr. Fricker

Mr. Fricker confirmed that he was not influenced by anyone in making the stand at the planning committee he explained that as a councillor you could ask as many questions as you wished before coming to a decision at the committee meeting; he felt there was much debate at this planning committee and he was surprised at the decision.

Mr Jackson closed the inquiry for the day.

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