Walton Hall Park

Over the past eight years local businessman John Seddon has championed the development of a stadium for Everton Football Club in another park within the city. A scheme that would bring valuable regeneration and improved transport links to an overlooked area of Liverpool in a park that isn’t listed or covenant protected.

It was interesting talking with John; part of the sixties music scene in Liverpool, he was involved in Radio Caroline, the Liverpool Broadcasting Company and was the producer of numerous LP’s of both Everton’s and Liverpool’s cup and league successes in the sixties. In the 1980’s he formed “Mersey Cablevision Ltd” and attracted investors such as Pilkington’s, Virgin, Lord Derby, Whitbread, BICC and Littlewoods amongst many others. The company was eventually taken over by Southwestern Bell in 1987 and two years later it became Telewest.

In the late 1990’s John observed the appalling decline of one of the cities forgotten parks, Walton Hall Park, a 100-acre space that was in need of investment and protection from vandalism and deprivation. His initial thoughts were for a shared stadium, a soccer village that would be the envy of the world but later confined his plan to a stadium for Everton alone.

John presented his embryonic plan for a stadium on Walton Hall Park to LCC in 2000, but in 2001 the Council put its faith in the ill-fated Kings Dock project. Unperturbed, feeling the dock plan ill conceived and undeliverable, John persevered with his idea and continued to lobby the Government office who informed him that “if the local authority concerned deemed that this was something that they wanted, it would not be necessary for any intervention by Government” Mindful of the increasing traffic problems and the Governments penchant for rail transport over road John contacted Sustrans as the management company responsible for the Halewood and Aintree loop line. It was surprising to discover that in the early 20th century the park had an array of railway sidings, one line running under breeze hill and re-emerging at Kirkdale and then on to Sandhills. On learning of this plan KEIOC have explained to John the importance of the Bootle line, still in existence and once having a station at Walton Lane and Cherry Lane, this line could easily and economically service Walton Hall Park and indeed, if needed, a redeveloped Goodison; the line is currently under consideration for the new Anfield project in Stanley Park and compliments Asda’s development in Litherland.

Having known Bill Kenwright since a struggling actor in the 60’s John made Bill aware of his developing project and at a meeting on 29th March 2003, in Liverpool’s Marriott Hotel, he explained the progress made to date. Bill asked him to keep him informed and personally went to see the prospective site. Unfortunately during one of these updates Bill informed John “the Tesco train to Kirkby is in the station” and all dialogue ceased.

Mindful of the disasters that accompany Everton John progressed his plans for a stadium complex on Walton Hall Park, liasing with many companies and organisations, retail and otherwise, that expressed a serious interest if Everton were to relocate to Walton Hall Park. One company emerged as a favourite enabling partner, Sainsbury’s Supermarkets Ltd.

Sainsbury’s assembled a team to take this ambitious project forward, this included NHR Chartered Surveyors, architects Hadfield Cawkwell Davidson and planning consultants Turley Associates.

John Seddon's sketch of how Walton Hall Park might look

On August 4th 2007 Sainsbury’s gave a presentation at the Liverpool City Council’s office in Dale Street.

At the close of this meeting a senior elected member of the council asked that this meeting and the interest from Sainsbury’s concerning Walton Hall Park should be kept confidential and that no press should be notified at that time.

On August the 24th 2007 Everton announced, “that a majority of those Evertonians who were eligible to vote in the ballot do support the Club in its desire to relocate to a new home in Kirkby ” and claimed a mandate. Sainsbury’s interest ceased at this point.

However, after recently contacting Sainsbury’s to obtain permission to use the brochure in this article Sainsbury’s have once again commented that they may still be interested in a partnership if the conditions from all parties concerned were agreeable.

Conclusion

KEIOC are astonished that it appears yet again that the much heralded exclusivity deal has prevented Everton from investigating a project that may have offered tangible benefits to the club, it’s supporters and the residents of Liverpool.

We are equally astonished that a senior elected member of Liverpool City Council, a Council that has passed a resolution, resolution 538, supporting the aims and objectives of keeping Everton in the City of Liverpool, decided that on the eve of an important ballot it was in keeping with resolution 538 to call for confidentiality and a complete press embargo.

During the ballot period Everton’s chief executive officer had an open letter published in the Liverpool Echo, this stated the following in relation to the late emergence of the Scotland Road Loop site:

"Without wishing, in any way, to call into question the integrity and professionalism of those who have pulled the Scotland Road "rabbit" out of a hitherto cunningly-concealed hat, we do find it curious that it is being portrayed as a genuine, realistic and deliverable scheme at the precise moment our supporters are being invited to participate in a ballot about our proposed relocation to Kirkby."

It is somewhat incredulous that at the time of this statement and without wishing, in any way, to call into question the integrity and professionalism of anyone, the CEO didn't mention the parallel proposal of Walton Hall Park at the time he was discrediting the potential of the Bestway site in the local press.

These amazing revelations can be added to the shameful treatment of the executive of Bestway Holdings and HOK Sport in their endeavours to have the site in Scotland Rd given the professional analysis and consideration it deserves and that the fans of Everton Football Club deserve.

It has also been recently confirmed to KEIOC that Everton received a comprehensive business plan, a costings report and a feasibility study from Tesco on their Kirkby project during their very first meeting with the club, very impressive indeed, yet prior to the ballot not one person from Everton or Tesco including both chief executives, could agree on the cost to the club, it ranged from effectively free to £35,000,000.

KEIOC will ask once again, how many of the 2,386 people who effectively gave the Everton board their claimed mandate would have voted differently if they had known of the three alternative sites within the city? How many of those 2,386 people would have voted differently if they had been told the true cost would be in the region of £100,000,000?

If you wish to discuss this article further please do so in our forums

The brochure produced for this meeting can be read here. You will need Adobe Acrobat reader installed on your computer to be able to read it. This can be downloaded at adobe.com.

Thank you for your continued support anyone wishing to contact us can do so by emailing us at keioc@keioc.net