This is the objection letter that Reverend Tim Stratford of St. Chad's Church, Kirkby has sent to Knowsley Borough Council, Secretary of State Hazel Blears and the Government Office for the North West.

It is worth pointing out that there is history between the reverend and Knowsley Council. Previously the council have tried to have the reverend removed from the church because they believe he was interferring with council business as he allowed his church to be used as a meeting place for the local resident's group. Source - liverpooltimes

The original objection letter now belongs in the public domain and we saw fit to replicate it's contents here:

I would like to put on record my objection to planning application 08/00001/HYB including the building of Tesco/Everton Stadium adjacent to the existing Kirkby Town Centre. I have detailed some general points relating to the negative contribution I believe this project will make to the town’s regeneration below followed by some more technical planning grounds for objection.

Social Cohesion and Stability

A great deal of regeneration has brought positive benefits to Kirkby over the past two decades. In the days of Z Cars Kirkby’s image was one of “villains and scallies”. Even as late as 1992 Kirkby was called “Little Beirut” (Sunday Times Magazine, October 25, 1992). Today Kirkby is a vibrant town with a buzzing town centre (albeit tatty) and a village feel at the community level. Although it is a place of deep socio-economic deprivation (upper 5% IMD [Index of Multiple Deprivation 2004] with a number of areas in the worst 1% IMD) it is also a place that people are happy to be. I have worked in Norris Green, Liverpool 11, for many years where I discovered that the majority aspired to live “somewhere else”. In my experience most people in Kirkby aspire to continue to live here - better. Knowsley Borough Council has been a major partner in the regeneration story so far along with the people of Kirkby and its voluntary and community sector bodies. This regeneration has not been brought about primarily by building projects but by improving society and strengthening community. In fact imposing buildings on the community has in the past had the opposite effect.One of the most significant characteristics of Kirkby today that marks it out from its past is its peacefulness. On the whole this is a quiet and safe place to live. Low incomes and limited horizons do diminish the opportunities that young people access compared to more affluent areas. This can lead to frustration. Many young people also appear to be uncomfortable outside of their home area in a town that is dominated by the four large estates of Southdene, Westvale, Northwood and Tower Hill. There are occasional disputes and fights between gangs from different estates. This doesn’t impact heavily on most adults. Whilst it suggests that the stable and peaceful character of the town may be fragile, nevertheless the peacefulness prevails. It is difficult to see how a football stadium will contribute to this and easy to see how it might be a cause of increased rivalry and a spark for disorder.

Quality of Life

The 2004 Index of Multiple Deprivation data suggests that people who live in Kirkby are severely disadvantaged in terms of health prospects, income, and employment opportunities (all in the worst 5%) and educational achievement (worst 10%), the Index of Income Deprivation Affecting Children is in the worst 5% and for older people in the worst 10%. But there are things that people very much appreciate living in Kirkby and that contribute significantly to the quality of life. The presence of some extensive green space in the middle of the town, wildlife and an attractive approach to the town on the main road from Liverpool are important features. Building a stadium equal in height to a 14 storey building on this land at the side of Valley Road causes a loss of amenity with much greater significance than the size of its footprint. (The highest remaining other building in the town centre will be six stories high and of very small footprint). Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council had promised extensive outdoor sports and play facilities on this land between a new Learning Centre and the new Sports and Leisure Centre. This is now reduced to an undersized single five-a-side pitch. Meanwhile the substantial Kirkby Stadium and outdoor five-a-side pitches have been demolished to make way for a coach park. This is a considerable reduction in sports facilities at the heart of the town, in a community that is marked by poor health. There is also a common perception that the backtracking from a promise to build a new Learning Centre on this site is linked to the Borough’s desire to develop the site for retail and the Everton Stadium. This poor planning communicates that education is of secondary importance to people growing up here.

Very few people appear to be convinced that the low paid jobs brought into the town by additional shopping facilities and the hospitality industry will extend their horizons. Such jobs are within easy reach in the City of Liverpool and those brought to Kirkby will only marginally extend a pool of work for Liverpool, Knowsley, St Helens and Sefton residents. There will also be an element of displacement of existing businesses. These businesses involve owners and traders whose responsibility, entrepreneurship and income far exceeds the opportunity extended to checkout assistants.

Indeed the stadium will itself contribute towards a reduction in the quality of life of local people across the town. A powerful indicator of this is the housing market’s judgement. Most people would expect houses adjacent to such a development to reduce in value. They will be severely affected by light pollution throughout much of the night, noise, delivery traffic and litter. Research by the Kirkby Residents’ Action Group shows that in Coventry a wide circle of houses reduced in value when the opposite trend prevailed across the rest of the UK. Coventry is the stadium cited by KMBC as being most like the Kirkby proposals. This is important not in itself but that it indicates the expectation of a reduction in the desirability of a residential area and its quality of life. For this to be imposed on a poor area like Kirkby is a planning travesty. Crowds, traffic and parking.

Poor health is a very strong feature of this town. The stadium will bring increased triggers for fear amongst the elderly on match nights and during other events. The heavy policing normally associated with such occasions will serve to exacerbate this. Many will regard their own street as a no go area at these times. Data from West Midlands Police indicates that crimes in the beats around the Coventry Ricoh stadium are more than twice as high on match days as is the case on non-match days (request reference 430/07).

The retail outlets will bring into the town a considerably larger amount of motor traffic than it currently endures including heavy goods vehicles making deliveries to the 600,000 ft2 of shops. On a match day it is anticipated by the developers that there will be an additional 17,000 motor journeys to a town that has a current motor car population of 9,000. This will add to poor air quality and contribute to the likelihood of addition child road deaths and adult accidents alike.

Only 4,600 parking spaces are planned at present as far as I can count. That sounds a lot against Kirkby’s current needs but is patently inadequate for the proposals. On street parking is going to be considerable. Everton FC have promised free permits to local people. At present local people can already park on the street for free (many have no other option) and so can their families and guests who aren’t local.

Impact on the existing town centre

Whilst the existing town centre is tatty and provides mainly for only very small retail units it is vibrant and well used. This could be extended and supplemented by a sensitive development but Tescos appear to propose an alternative development. There can never be any guarantee that phase 4, upgrading the existing town centre in 2010, will be delivered. By that date it may already have died from the alternatively cited substantial competition anyway. This is not the best way to improve the space that is occupied by people and traders who are already heavily committed to the town, many of whom live here. Planners should bear in mind that Development Securities who already own substantial parts of Kirkby Town Centre, have submitted proposals for a more evolutionary approach.

As well as private businesses Kirkby Town Centre houses many public facilities and community & voluntary sector organisations. The Tesco proposals represent a considerable reduction in this provision. These are the very facilities that have brought regeneration in Kirkby over recent years.

These proposals appear to assume that regeneration is brought about by new buildings being built on grass land. Concrete and stainless steel may make a place look industrious but it can also contribute to degeneration. One Liverpool resident recently commented, “They have just regenerated our community and they’ve taken the heart out of it”. Planners must ensure that the regeneration of a community is the focus for Kirkby and not the development of a piece of land.

Democracy

Whilst democracy is not most obviously a planning issue it is relevant. Kirkby has surprisingly low participation in democracy. Many council wards are uncontested and turn-out rates are exceptionally low. There is a strong sense throughout the population that people are normally not listened to and are often ‘done to’. These things contribute to low self-esteem and should be tackled by any well thought through regeneration strategy. Consultations over the Tesco proposals conducted by KMBC have been little more that strong armed marketing exercises. The July 2007 consultations over the current UDP and the Council’s IPS mentioned neither of these, and gave residents no space to register an objection on the printed survey form. In fact many Council officers staffing the consultation did not themselves know what UDP was nor what were the prevailing plans for the land in question ahead of Tescos’ plans. This manifestly did not take local people seriously and raises serious questions of the whole scheme as a regeneration strategy.

Technical Objections

I further believe that this planning application should be refused on the following grounds.

Furthermore as a local resident I feel that Knowsley Council are not competent to determine this application as they are the principal landowner and have already granted the developer exclusivity status and have signalled their strategic support for its objectives.

Revd T.R. Stratford
This objection is offered in my personal capacity
as there has not yet been time for the Church
Council to discuss its contents.