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Stadium Planning Appraisal

Knowsley Council Due to the need to assess a wide range of issues generated from the “considerable number” of objections received before the December 14th deadline, Wednesday’s planned debate relating to the adoption of the Interim Policy Statement (IPS) at the scheduled Knowsley Cabinet meeting was deferred until February 6th.

Indeed our informant within Knowsley Council reports that it is unlikely, due to the number of issues raised, that officers will be in a position to produce a report for this revised date and are now looking at March as a more realistic option [update - it was deffered to June on 15th March]. Several objections received are from adjacent authorities and with respect to Sefton and West Lanc’s it is the objection from Liverpool City Council that carries a considerable amount of weight.

For those with little interest or knowledge of the complexities of the planning process a simple explanation of the basics may help you understand the vital importance to Tesco and Everton in KMBC adopting the proposed Interim Policy Statement.

Unitary Development Plan’s (UDP) are statutory documents that currently govern all local authority planning applications. Amongst other things the plan accommodates the needs of the local community, environment and economy whilst taking into account the needs of neighbouring authorities, government legislation and regional policy. A UDP is a considerable document requiring many thousands of hours of work and can only be adopted after approval by the government. Their function is to not only regulate planning applications but also control the day-to-day actions of councillors and planning officers whilst dealing with those planning applications. In other words developers and council officials simply can’t do what they wish. Knowsley’s UDP was only adopted eighteen months ago.

Tesco’s proposed development fails to comply with Knowsley’s current UDP on multiple levels, in basic terms the development is simply too big for a town the size of Kirkby. The Interim Policy Statement is essentially a device that the council is employing in an attempt to modify their existing UDP, it will ultimately require the endorsement of the secretary of state.

Notwithstanding the thousands of residents objections to the IPS, Liverpool is raising concerns in the following areas: Retail Need and Impact, Assessment of Liverpool’s Shopping Centres and Proposals, Catchment Area, Quantitative Need, Scale, Sequential Approach, Social and Economic Impacts and finally Status and Prematurity. This last issue is significant as it highlights the position of Kirkby in relation to the highly important Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS). Liverpool’s concern is stated as:

It is understandable that Knowsley Council is very keen to tackle long-standing regeneration problems and the advent of Everton FC’s interest in relocating to the town is prompting them to act quickly to achieve this. Unfortunately this has led them to produce the IPS which has little if any weight or status in statutory terms and should not in any event be used to reallocate the use of land in this case from green-space to built development.

The production of the IPS departs from statutory planning procedures, the purpose of which is to bring forward land use policy, and consequential developments, in a comprehensive and consistent way. Knowsley’s existing recently adopted UDP does not support these development proposals and it will be some time before its Local development Framework could provide the necessary enabling policies.

Moreover the IPS acknowledges that Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS), which is also, part of Knowsley’s development plan, does not support the scale of development proposed at Kirkby, because the Town’s current position within the retail hierarchy does not give the town a regionally significant role.

The RSS is a piece of government legislation within which is identified a retail hierarchy, taken directly from the RSS:

Guidelines for the distribution of development and for resources to achieve urban renaissance:

The North West Metropolitan Area (NWMA) is to be the focus for new development and urban renaissance resources with priority being given to Liverpool and Manchester city centres and the inner city areas surrounding them. Priority is also given to development and complementary regeneration in the centres and inner areas of the following metropolitan towns and boroughs – Birkenhead, St Helens, Southport, Ashton-under-Lyne, Bolton, Bury, Oldham, Rochdale, Stockport and Wigan.

Elsewhere in the NWMA, development and improvements in the metropolitan towns of

Runcorn, Widnes, Ellesmere Port, and Skelmersdale should continue to complement, rather than compete with, development in the areas set out above. In Warrington, the focus will be on regeneration and restricting further significant outward expansion.

Most other development requirements will be met within smaller towns and large villages where it will be of an appropriate scale to accommodate the needs of local communities.

After reading this excerpt from the policy you begin to understand why Liverpool have obtained the massive Grosvenor and Jennifer projects, you will understand that Kirkby is not included in this regional hierarchy whatsoever and falls into the scope of the final paragraph and finally you will begin to understand the sound logic behind some of LCC’s objections to the IPS and why these objections are likely to be endorsed.

Tesco, as developers and planning applicants, are stating that the Knowsley UDP has failed and are attempting to promote Kirkby’s position within these networks and hierarchies of centres as set out in Planning Policy Statement 6 (PPS6), another key document in the planning process. To put this into a context we can all relate to Tesco is attempting to promote Kirkby ahead of Warrington in this hierarchy, Warrington is four times the size of Kirkby. Unfortunately for Tesco, and in addition to the previously stated objections, the emerging planning application from Development Securities, the current owners of Kirkby Town Centre, will address all the needs of the residents of Kirkby in terms of regeneration of the town centre and the establishment of a much needed anchor food store in ASDA within the context of the existing UDP and will embrace the parameters specified in the RSS.

Whilst the strength and the caliber of the people behind the Tesco planning application should not be under estimated it must equally be remembered that a basic rule of planning is that planning policy cannot be dictated by a planning application.

It is yet to be seen whether the residents of Kirkby are to be afforded a due democratic process, it would appear Councillor Round’s interpretation of this process falls somewhat short of peoples expectations when he claims that there will never be a referendum on this matter “as the issues are too complex for the people of Kirkby to understand” and replies, this week, to a resident stating that “I will take an appropriate decision at the appropriate time – that is when all the facts are available.” We also have Councillor Sharp writing misleading letters in the Echo indicating, “The vast majority of residents are in support of Tesco’s proposals to regenerate Kirkby” yet the council refuse to publish their findings of their consultations save a Baseline report that indicates residents substantial reservations against the stadium development specifically.

If the issues surrounding the development are so complex, and we have no doubt these are, then it is equally true that mere councillors, elected officials and residents themselves, are similarly unable to understand the pertinent issues surrounding these complex issues and should therefore the matter should be the subject of a formal public enquiry.

Having read just some of the issues highlighted here we think that you’ll agree that this is not a simple process and the objections to the actual planning application are yet to be raised.

It should be noted that two of the three parties concerned have contingency plans should this ambitious plan fail, Kirkby have a plan b in Development Securities and Tesco have a plan b through to z with all their other development plans in Europe and America. It is Everton Football Club alone that has no contingency plan; this is remarkable given the substantial amount of ill feeling demonstrated by the majority of shareholders at the recent AGM which prompted the Chairman, Bill Kenwright, to state “On behalf of the board as a plan B, Goodison, as a plan C, if you want to, we will look at the Bestway again.”

It disappoints KEIOC to report that Bill Kenwright’s promise to contact the architect Trevor Skempton with a view to discussing the redevelopment of Goodison Park has so far failed to materialize and that no contact has taken place between Everton, Bestway and LCC with regards to the Scotland Rd site. Indeed Bill Kenwright has also chosen to ignore all email communications from this group.

Immediately after the mauling he received during the AGM Bill Kenwright issued the following statement to the media: “We have consultants helping us, and the team we have brought in to look at these other schemes know what they are doing. You would think we had brought in Desperate Dan and Corky the Cat the way people are talking. We have got the best in the business looking at all options, including the Kirkby move” Well a look at the report submitted by Everton, as part of the Tesco planning application, confirms that Desperate Dan and Corky would have produced a better report. The report indicates that:

Savills advised Everton Football Club that the Bestway proposal appeared to be undeliverable as:

  • There were concerns regarding the availability of sufficient land to accommodate a stadium and associated enabling development
  • That the main site was unsuitable for a 50-60,000 capacity stadium;
  • That accessibility would be very difficult and expensive to resolve and;
  • The resultant high infrastructure and stadium capita cost would mean that the proposal could not be viable.”

It goes on to state:
Notwithstanding the fact that the site is not of a sufficient size for a stadium to meet the Clubs needs and certainly cannot accommodate any enabling development; if land could be found around the site for enabling development, the necessary retail scheme would be contrary to the regeneration aims of the City Council and contrary to planning policy.”

The physical analysis of the site by KSS architects has ruled out the site on the basis of it’s

ability to accommodate a stadium of the footprint of that proposed for Kirkby. The views of SDG are that the site is not capable ofaccommodating the infrastructure to serve such a large stadium.”

For the benefit of those who do not know, KSS and SDG are both involved in the Kirkby project. It is interesting to note that the report fails to indicate the findings of HOK Sport who were commissioned by Bestway Holdings and Liverpool Community Council to access the Scotland Road site. The HOK Sport report's conclusion can be found here.

It is interesting to note that the Chief Executive of LCC is meeting this week with his counterpart at the North West Development Agency (NWDA) with a view to discussing potential funding for a full feasibility study of the Scotland Rd site and that other senior officers from the council are liaising with the current owners.

Whilst we doubt the author of Everton’s report has set out expressly to mislead the planning authorities in Knowsley we can only conclude that a massive amount of incompetence and selective reporting is evident in the document. This and many other issues ranging from transport assessment to environmental impact will be challenged if and when the relevant authorities assess the planning application from Tesco.

KEIOC will continue the campaign to promote Goodison and the Scotland Rd site as viable alternatives to the Kirkby project. We continue to hope that the board will see the logic of being involved in this process as a safeguard against the future failure of Kirkby.

In relation to the Scotland Rd site KEIOC appreciate that the site will be more expensive to develop but that the rewards and kudos derived from a city centre location will more than compensate for the increased expenditure, Conrad Hilton knew this when he uttered his famous retort “location, location, location” and we believe Everton know this as they commissioned a study by Price Waterhouse Cooper last year which compared the relative merits of Kirkby to the Loop or any other city centre site in terms of attracting both corporate and supporter revenue. The evidence of the report showed that the Kirkby project should have been shelved as the potential income was some ten times higher with a city centre site, however beggars can’t be choosers.

We would ask all Evertonians to get involved in our campaign, contact us through the website or our forum and look to the skies on Sunday, weather permitting, and pray that our message never comes true!