Note of Caution Over New Bellefield Proposal
Everton are looking at an agreement with Bellway Homes over a proposed future development on their former training ground at Bellefield, West Derby.
Quite understandably Everton are anxious to realise the value locked up in the land that has stood vacant since their departure to the highly acclaimed Finch Farm training facility and obviously all Evertonians will want to see the maximum value obtained from the sale so that it can be utilised on either a redeveloped Goodison or a new stadium in Speke, Fairfield or Croxteth; yet perhaps lessons from the past should be observed; this will be their fourth attempt at securing planning permission on the Bellefield site.
It will be remembered that in March 2008 Everton’s attempt to obtain planning permission for 74 family homes was thwarted when it generated substantial local opposition leading to local Lib Dem councillor Dave Irving speaking out against the application as did the then Labour opposition spokesperson on the planning committee Cllr Steve Munby. Whilst the city’s officers report was favourable to the clubs application, the planning committee, made up of elected officials, refused the application because, even though Everton had reduced the original amount of housing in response to residents concerns over fears it would increase traffic, they indicated it would not provide regeneration benefits.
Later that year, acting on expert advice, Everton mounted a legal challenge and even though the government inspector, Karen Ridge, found in favour of the appellants contention that the increase in traffic wasn’t grounds for refusal, she overall found against on the acceptability of the proposed residential development having regard to: (a) loss of green space, (b) housing land supply matters and (c) its effect on the Housing Market Renewal Initiative (HMRI).
Everton has, somewhat surprisingly, continued to promote their inability to deliver a suitable proposal as a city council inspired political decision against Destination Kirkby when the reality is over 220 local residents opposed the prospect of 74 dwellings being built and a planning inspector upheld the councils decision.
Everton are now proposing to increase the proposed number of dwellings; a move that will no doubt further anger and mobilise local residents; it appears that the club are counting on a revision of national planning policies surrounding the regional spatial strategy [RSS] and the housing market renewal initiative [HMRI].
With a unenviable record of accepting poor expert advice Everton clearly need to avoid any possibility of further delays to the delivery of a suitable plan that will yield the maximum amount of revenue for the good of the club, its supporters and the future stadium plans that need to be urgently implemented if the serious shortfall in stadium income at the club is to be addressed.