|Keeping Everton in Our City
|ENQUIRY WEEK 7 - DAYS 25-28
|Page 1 of 1|
|Author:||Herefordblue [ Wed Apr 29, 2009 10:26 pm ]|
|Post subject:||ENQUIRY WEEK 7 - DAYS 25-28|
http://www.keioc.net/index.php?mact=New ... turnid=130
Day 25 – Tesco Application in conflict with PPS6
Dave Kelly [KEIOC] requested that Mrs Burden visit the Halliwell Jones Stadium in Warrington along with the proposed visit to the City of Manchester Stadium. Dave explained that the stadium was a Barr Construction development, on the outskirts of a town centre alongside a Tesco Extra store and as such represented a similar, if not scaled down version, of the Kirkby proposal. Mrs. Burden agreed to this proposal.
Mr Barrett, counsel for KMBC, continued his cross-examination of Mr Megson, Combined Authorities Objectors.
Mr. Barrett enquired if Everton needed a new stadium and that Kirkby represented the best location. Mr Megson explained that the CAO’s objection lay with the retail element, not the stadium. He made clear that whilst be understood Kirkby needed regeneration, the scale of the retail being proposed at Kirkby would have a significant impact on regeneration proposals in Skelmersdale.
Mr Barrett asked if the Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) support the proposed development? Mr. Megson offered the view that the development plan contained policies that both agreed and disagreed with the proposal.
Mr Clarkson, QC for Tesco, asked Mr. Megson if the Secretary of State could see the cross-subsidy of the stadium as a benefit to the retail? Mr. Megson agreed that this was possible; it could be a view taken by the Secretary of State.
Mr Roger Lancaster, Counsel for the CAO, went through Mr. Megson’s evidence once again in a bid to clear up any confusion. Mr Lancaster asked for an explanation on the assistance given for the redevelopment proposal at Skelmersdale.
Mr Megson told the inquiry that it was a mixed-use development with a significant amount of retail. The North West Development Agency [NWDA] and English Partnerships had involvement with the masterplan, and he believed that the retail study  should be given significant weight.
Mr Clarkson asked Mr. Megson if the Kirkby proposal was in conflict with the planning policy PPS6?
Mr Megson replied that the combined authorities view was that the proposal conflicted with the draft PPS6, as it would have “an adverse impact on Bootle, Skelmersdale, and St Helens, and the development was not in proportion with the role and function of Kirkby town centre.”
When asked about the Sustainable Community Strategy [SCS], Mr. Megson felt that whilst the Everton proposal was referenced in the SCS it should be dealt with through the local development framework not through the way it was being presented.
The next witness for the combined authorities was Mrs Taylor of the developers St. Modwen Plc. Mrs Taylor, based in Warrington, is their regional director Mrs. Taylor explained that St Modwen is regarded as the country’s leading regeneration specialist.
Mrs Taylor read out her proof of evidence. She stated that Skelmersdale had experienced persistent decline since the 1960s. St Modwen was selected to develop Skelmersdale, in line with the expectations of partners West Lancashire Authorities and English Partnerships. The proposals for Skelmersdale include retail, offices, library and a cinema, which were based on the principles of good urban design, and she believed that the proposals delivered both commercial and social objectives. She believed that Kirkby’s proposals had failed in the past due to land ownership issues, but these have since been resolved. If the Kirkby proposal goes ahead, she thought that the success of the proposals for Skelmersdale would be compromised. Whereas the retail proposal for Skelmersdale has been adjusted to satisfy broader objectives, Kirkby’s retail offering has been developed with no compromise.
At the conclusion of reading out her statement Mr Lancaster asked “What was the nature of your discussions with Knowsley Council since 2003?”
Mrs. Taylor explained, “By the end of 2003 St Modwen had developed a masterplan for Kirkby town centre at the request of Knowsley Council. In 2005, Knowsley Council stated their desire to support the interests of Mr Weiss. St Modwen subsequently sold their interest to Mr Weiss in May 2005, this was to ensure that the land was not split between a number of different owners.” She believed that if Knowsley Council had issued a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) for Mr Weiss’s interests, St Modwen would most certainly have looked to develop Kirkby. This would have been within the existing town centre. In her opinion Knowsley Council should have researched Mr. Weiss’s development record more thoroughly before deciding whom to support.
Mr Lancaster asked, “What would you anticipate that Tesco would do if they owned the development rights for Kirkby town centre?”
Mrs. Taylor thought Tesco would want to develop a food store in the town centre, as she believed that other food stores were interested in those sites.
Mr Clarkson’s next question concerned the role of St Modwen in the development plans for Skelmersdale?
Mrs. Taylor explained St Modwen had significant input into the masterplan. Once a design code has been agreed, an outline planning application will be submitted along with a detailed application for the first phase. She said that a design code is anticipated for Spring 2009, with outline planning application due in Summer 2009. It was her belief that the first phase would be to the southeast of the Asda development, which would include residential, retail, offices, a library, and possibly a cinema. This would equate to an estimated 15,000sqm of retail, and that any retail and housing would be available in 2011. She suggested that Skelmersdale needed both improved retail and housing offers, to attract both groups to the town centre.
Mr Lancaster asked, “Why would the proposals for Skelmersdale be jeopardised if the plans for Kirkby went ahead?”
Mrs. Taylor explained that Kirkby, in her opinion, “is a retailer’s dream, plenty of car parking, the big units designed to meet the needs of retailers.” She thought that retailers would prefer this perfect retailing format, on offer in Kirkby, as opposed to a compromised offer in Skelmersdale. St Modwen would be left with no choice but to not proceed with their plans for Skelmersdale if the Kirkby development went ahead, but she suggested, “If a more appropriately sized development was to emerge for Kirkby, the two developments could co-exist.”
Mr Lancaster concluded with a question on the financial standing of St Modwen.
Mrs Taylor explained, “Despite the current economic difficulties, St Modwen were still trading very strongly.”
Mr. Barrett, counsel for KMBC began his cross-examination whit a question on the scale and speed of the developments for Skelmersdale.
Mrs. Taylor explained that the retail size of Skelmersdale was expected to be 34,000 sq m, and confirmed that the planning application was hoped for during 2008, but that it was now expected in early 2009.
Mr. Barrett enquired as to the history of St Modwen’s involvement with Kirkby. Mrs Taylor agreed that in both 1999 and 2002, Morrisons and Asda had rejected Knowsley Council’s approaches regarding sites in Kirkby. She acknowledged that Mr. Weiss argued that he did not require the interests of St Modwen to develop Kirkby town centre in partnership with Knowsley Council and she suggested that Knowsley Council believed that, whilst Mr. Weiss did not have the development record of St Modwen, he could develop the land in Kirkby. She understood the Council’s reasoning, but felt that the Council should have gone further to investigate the lack of incentive for Mr. Weiss to develop the area.
Mr Barrett asked Mrs Taylor to explain St Modwen’s role in the planning process in Skelmersdale. St Modwen, like all developers, will have to develop a regeneration scheme that met the wider challenges of the area. She explained that whilst the proposals for Kirkby were an excellent retail scheme, it failed to achieve transformational change or improve the lives of local residents. She suggested that successful regeneration schemes relied not on scale, but on form and function. She believed that the scale and nature of the development in Kirkby will drain resource from the existing retail offering, despite the removal of the barrier of affordable housing to the south of Cherryfield Drive.
Mr Barrett questioned how the existing proposals for Kirkby could be judged against the needs of an “ephemeral application that has not yet been submitted” Mrs. Taylor agreed that the proposal for Skelmersdale has yet to be tested against the Regional Spatial Strategy, as the formal proposal had yet to be submitted.
Mr. Barrett then enquired into the transport links for Skelmersdale, and how the overall plan for the town would look. Mrs Taylor understood that Skelmersdale town centre was designed around car use, as there is no train station. She believed that a planning document should set out the Council’s aspirations for the town centre and suggested that the scale of a development should not be based on the scale of the deprivation. She took the view that St Modwen would utilise higher value uses to help support the softer public facilities aspects of the scheme. Therefore, St Modwen nearly always includes retail in their developments, as it is such high value. The soft features stated in the proposals for Skelmersdale include a leisure centre, swimming pool, a campus for the college, and a library. She agreed that this will increase the diversity of the town centre, and could subsequently lead to increased spending in the town centre from the more affluent people who live just outside Skelmersdale town centre.
Finally Mr. Barrett questioned the financial stability and composition of the Skelmersdale proposal. Mrs. Taylor said that the proposal was chiefly supported by retail units and commercial housing as the revenue generators. She said that whilst there has been a downturn in the commercial housing sector, there had also been a fall in the comparison goods sector. This would affect most developments. However, Mrs Taylor argued that the proposals for Skelmersdale would only come to fruition in 2011, by which time the economic conditions should have improved.
Mr. Patrick Clarkson, counsel for the applicants next took over the cross-examination of Mrs Taylor.
When asked if the presence of the Tesco store in Kirkby would help deliver the project Mrs.Taylor had to agree. She explained that the main objection was to the size of the retail, not the stadium, as this would have a detrimental effect on the ability of the Skelmersdale to attract major retailers; once again confirming that Skelmersdale was not being proposed as a destination and that Kirkby, with its large units and massive car parking facilities was a retailers dream.
Mr Clarkson asked if the Skelmersdale project was reliant upon the housing element; Mrs Taylor agreed this was the case and that St Modwen was expecting the housing market to recover by 2011.
Mr. Clarkson then asked about St Modwen’s plans for Kirkby’s town centre before they sold their interests. Mrs. Taylor confirmed that they had interest from some of the larger retailers and that they were happy to move into a redeveloped town centre on the existing site but that in order to achieve this St Modwen would have needed a more sophisticated plan.
Mr. Lancaster then asked Mrs. Taylor to clarify certain points in her cross-examination including a question on the weight applied to St Modwen’s proposed application in relation to Tesco’s actual application. Mrs Taylor explained that you could not differentiate, as both applications were at different stages in the planning process.
Mrs. Taylor explained that in her opinion Destination Kirkby would be to the detriment of the existing centre.
The planning inspector, Mrs Wendy Burden, asked Mrs Taylor, “Will the schemes which St Modwen has put on hold be advanced above the Skelmersdale scheme when the market picks up?”
Mrs Taylor answered that all schemes are advanced as soon as possible.
Mrs. Burden then asked, “Are there any indications that the finances for the Skelmersdale project could be jeopardised by the current economic climate?”
Mrs. Taylor replied that there weren’t any indications and as director for the scheme she would have received advance warnings on this matter.
Mrs Burden thanked Mrs Taylor and closed the inquiry until tomorrow.
|Author:||Herefordblue [ Wed Apr 29, 2009 10:27 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Re: ENQUIRY WEEK 7 - DAYS 25-28|
http://www.keioc.net/index.php?mact=New ... turnid=130
Day 26 – Kirkby Damaging to Sefton, Skelmersdale and St Helen
The next witness for the combined authority objectors was the extremely competent Mr Gill, a town planner. Mr Gill explained the similarities and differences between Skelmersdale and Kirkby. Mr. Gill stated that he thought there were more vacant properties in Skelmersdale town centre than in Kirkby. It was alleged that Skelmersdale had the highest level of shop vacancies in the North West. He was “greatly concerned” about the scale of Destination Kirkby and what this could do to the plans for Skelmersdale town centre. He explained that Skelmersdale had fallen 60 places in the national retail rankings between 2004 and 2008 and that rents and yields had remained static. He said the only interest appeared to be from the discount sector.
Mr Gill explained that the Concourse Shopping Centre, opened in 1973 and extended in the 1990s, closed at 17.30, with only a few pubs and shops operating after that time.
Quoting the “Your Kirkby Your Future” Mr Gill described the progress that had been made in Kirkby. A new leisure centre, new housing in Tower Hill, a new health centre and £33million provided to create more jobs in Northwood. He said there had also been £28 million of European money to improve roads and transport to encourage more jobs. He went on to say there would be two new learning centres, a new primary care trust health centre for and a possible new train station at Headbolt Lane to service the area east of the town. Overall he stated, “Kirkby’s population and employment rates had increased. Knowsley Council’s fresh start initiative had created seventy-one new businesses and many companies had relocated to the area.
Mr Gill explained that Skelmersdale was at the heart of the Supplementary Planning Document designed to redevelopment those areas that were in decline.
Identifying that Skelmersdale was at the top of the retail hierarchy in its area Mr Gill confirmed that the development of Skelmersdale town centre was a priority in the council’s corporate plan.
Mr Gill stated that achieving a deliverable master plan was essential. He explained it was very easy to draw up master plans but getting them implemented was another matter “this was why it was so important to get St Modwen involved”. He said the area’s MP, Rosie Cooper, was a key driver in their proposal; she had described Skelmersdale as having “more visions than St Bernadette” having many policies that had not been delivered but that we thought we were now at the delivery stage. There would be a pedestrian friendly High Street linking the town to the Asda supermarket. The redevelopment of Skelmersdale would not undermine the vitality and viability of other centers, it went down the plan led route and the scheme had an approval from 93% from those who took part in the council’s consultation process. He said Knowsley Council were advised of the consultation in the spring of 2008 when they were promoting the Kirkby proposals but no comment was made and that the Government Office North West were happy with the way West Lancs Council were taking this forward. He said English Partnerships were aware of the high levels of deprivation in the town. He said they were supportive of the development at Skelmersdale.
He said English Partnerships were also involved with KMBC on regenerating deprived areas and had expressed concern about the scale of the Kirkby proposals and the effect it might have on other areas.
Mr Gill explained that they wanted to maximise the space available within the retail sector of the town, pointing out that (in line with planning conditions) there was no intention for this development to have any impact on other towns in the area. He asked for full recognition of what won't happen in Skelmersdale if Destination Kirkby happens. Conversely, it would be a win-win situation if both schemes were the same size as Skelmersdale, especially for jobs and regeneration. He suggested Knowsley Council should have considered a proper town centre scheme rather than a scheme set to draw from such a large area; it was this area that was likely to cause problems further afield. He described Skelmersdale town centre as “a very sad centre in many ways” and the current plan was important for Skelmersdale”. Mr. Gill finished off his presentation of evidence by stating “we are a small authority and have put a lot of effort in to get this right.”
Mr. Barrett, counsel for Knowsley Council, began his cross-examination by asking if English Partnerships, while reflecting your concerns, did it adopt them? It was suggested that English Partnerships were neutral or Skelmersdale and Kirkby.
Mr. Gill denied that they were neutral, he explained the dilemma English Partnerships found itself in, “they wanted to support regeneration schemes but did not feel any scheme should have priority over another; if a view was taken that there would be an impact, they would have concerns.”
Mr Barrett asked, “What is your view of the replacement local plan?”
Mr Gill explained the local plan was relevant, he pointed out that Skelmersdale was the prime retail centre in West Lancashire. He said Skelmersdale was under performing in its function and the plan addressed what its appropriate function should be within the retail hierarchy. He said Kirkby was not the main centre in its area – there were three centres within a similar function within Knowsley.
Mr Barrett then asked, “Did the Skelmersdale plan comply with the Regional Spatial Strategy?”
Mr Gill replied that it did comply and the change in the retail hierarchy would be acceptable because of Skelmersdale’s position within the Regional Spatial Strategy.
Mr Barrett finally asked Mr Gill if he agreed with the regeneration impact of the Kirkby proposals.
Mr Gill agreed that using English Partnerships methodology Destination Kirkby would create between 1200 and 1600 extra jobs for Kirkby and Knowsley as a whole, but he was concerned that the wider impact of this development had not been taken into account. Skelmersdale is not looking to draw from a wide catchment, primarily West Lancs, English Partnerships guidance is clear; Jobs won't be created in Skelmersdale if Destination Kirkby happens.
Mrs. Wendy Burden interjected and asked for lawyers to provide evidence on how enforceable the Section 106 agreements are.
Mr. Clarkson then began his cross-examination with a clumsy attempt at misinformation, “Knowsley is the 8th most deprived borough in the country, and West Lancashire isn't, is it?”
An able Mr. Gill responded, “Deprivation in West Lancashire is centred in Skelmersdale. Whilst jobs created by Destination Kirby would be significant, West Lancs Council thought a more acceptable scheme could still create the same number of jobs.
Mr. Clarkson asked if there wasn't the option for people in Skelmersdale to work in Kirkby?”
Mr. Gill replied “The people of Kirkby would be not be able to access jobs that followed the development in Skelmersdale or vice versa because public transport links are extremely poor. We are not saying there should be job losses in Kirkby, we are saying there should be jobs in both areas, and the council, (West Lancs) did not think town centre regeneration was the “be all and end all” of tackling the indices of deprivation.”
Mr. Clarkson had no further questions.
Mrs Burden then asked Mr Gill a number of questions. “What are the Public transport links like between Kirkby and Skelmersdale?” Mr Gill replied that they were bloody awful; “ the main bus links tended to go to Wigan or Liverpool, but took some time.” He explained, “Most people travelling to Liverpool, would probably change at Ormskirk and get the train. He said there were express bus services into Liverpool but these weren’t frequent. Skelmersdale did not have a rail station but the transport authorities have accepted the desire for this. He thought Wigan was the major shopping centre that most people in Skelmersdale would use for a greater choice. He said there were no real public transport links between Kirkby and Skelmersdale but road links were good. He did accept that poor public transport meant people would have to use their car to shop and this was why it was important for Skelmersdale to improve the retail offer for local people. He said most people seemed to prefer to shop locally where they could.
Mrs. Burden next asked what would you do if a town has bad transport links?
Mr. Gill replied that, in that case, it was important to build locally, allow the town to cater for itself. Skelmersdale should fulfill its role as defined by the RSS. There are good transport links with the catchment area.
Mrs. Burden next wanted to know what he thought the differences were between Skelmersdale and Kirkby?
Mr. Gill replied that Skelmersdale is more isolated, a stand-alone town. Kirkby is more integrated with the Liverpool conurbation. Kirkby town center feels more like one than Skelmersdale’s enclosed shopping centre. He also explained that Skelmersdale had some very poor housing and that the standard of housing In Kirkby was better. He thought this might be a result of the investment that had already been attracted to the town.
Mrs. Burden thanked Mr. Gill for his assistance.
Mr. Roger Lancaster introduced the next witness for the Combined Authority Objectors, Mr Tom Ferguson; the development plans manager for St Helens Council.
Mr Ferguson described how St Helens had undergone a massive change in recent years with the decline of their traditional glass making and coal mining industries although he acknowledged that Kirkby was more deprived than St Helens.
Mr. Ferguson explained that St. Helens needed to be more dynamic and vibrant. Liverpool One is drawing trade but is allowed to do so given its position in the Regional Spatial Strategy. Wigan and Warrington are their major competitors but that once again regeneration in those towns was consistent with the Regional Spatial Strategy, within the retail hierarchy and regional strategy and as such did not pose a threat to St Helens.
He explained that there was considerable support for the Chalon Way development in St Helens as the town had been losing market share in the non-food retail sector and would lose out in years to come if nothing was done.
He was concerned that this creation of a sub regional centre so near to St Helens was likely to cause problems with potential investors in St Helens. The primary concern was that the Kirkby development was being presented, once again, as a retailers dream; large and surrounded by car parking, something that St. Helens can’t provide. The design for Destination Kirkby had not met CABE’s requirements; the applicants had opted for retail advantage. He said the Government Office and the Planning Inspectorate advice about the new spatial system looked at regeneration but also the need to develop “a sense of place”. He said the Kirkby scheme would function as an out of centre retail development and as such would attract the shoppers they would be hoping to attract to St Helens; over 50% currently travel by bus to St Helens, Roger Tym, (consultants for KMBC), accepted there will be an adverse effect on St. Helens.
In a quite devastating assessment of Destination Kirkby Mr Ferguson explained that the Regional Spatial Strategy was “giving a very clear steer about spatial development and how to deal with the hierarchy and investment opportunities across the region. Councils would not be able to object to redevelopment plans in neighbouring authorities as long as they were proportionate. The policy provided a sense of balance. What was disturbing about the Kirkby proposals was that they would bring about a massive injection of floor space that would change the retail hierarchy and that the scale of this development should be tested through the planning system.”
Mr. Ferguson explained that the Kirkby plan was a very significant departure from the regional substructure as set out in the Regional Spatial Strategy.”
Mr Patrick Clarkson began his cross-examination by asking, “Why did your council object to ING's objection to Chalon Way?
He agreed that ING objected to the Chalon Way scheme because they did not think there was not enough expenditure around to make it viable. But St Helens Council did not think this reason was enough to refuse the scheme. Mr. Ferguson continued to explain that the Chalon Way scheme had gone through the development led process but there was urgency on the St Helen’s Rugby Club as they were subject to Super league conditions. ING objected as they thought there would be less expenditure available for their own aspirations. He added that ING had put in a written submission expressing concerns about Kirkby.
Mr Clarkson then asked, “Ravenhead Retail Park is out of centre and being extended with permission from your council; your council is allowing competition with its own Town center is it not?”
Mr. Ferguson explained, “There are conditions as to what can be sold on the retail park. A loophole was found in the S106 agreement to extend it by 1,000sq m.
Mr Clarkson pointed out “Tesco are investing in Chalon Way. They are keen to get on with it.”
Mr. Ferguson explained that they will still have to attract investment, retailers that might prefer Kirkby.
Mr. Barrett for KMBC began his cross-examination by asking “St. Helen's Club couldn't move because it was a source of civic pride and too important to the town. Yet the stadium was inadequate and threatening their league status. These are material considerations, similar to EFC?”
Mr. Ferguson, a development plans manager for St. Helens, answered “Similar yes, they conflict with residential areas.”
Mr. Barrett, “So it's not challenged that Everton are in an inadequate stadium which is assisting in the decline of the club?
Once again, Mr. Ferguson, a development plans manager for St Helens, explained “The issue isn't with the stadium, it's the method of securing it, namely cross funding of an appropriate scale.”
Mr. Lancaster in closing pointed out that the rugby stadium at St Helens cost £22m, with a cross subsidy of £8m and also established that it was being built on a brownfield site, as is Chalon Way.
Mrs Burden asked Mr. Ferguson if it was just the food sector of the Chalon Way development that would be cross subsidising the RL stadium? Mr Ferguson informed her that this was the case and that there were no firm plans for the old Tesco site. Mrs. Burden then asked how do people from St Helens travel to the Trafford Centre? Mr Ferguson explained that this journey was made primarily by car.
Mr Lancaster introduced his next witness, Mr. Andrew Wallis, the planning and economic director of Sefton Council.
Mr Wallis explained that Sefton Council had been consulted on the Kirkby Interim Planning Statement and had offered comments and suggestions, although the majority were objections the Government Office North West suggested that even if the IPS were adopted it would carry only limited weight.
Mr. Wallis explained that Sefton had “urged” Knowsley Council to seek further reductions in the non- food floor space in relation to the retail hierarchy that would have a less damaging impact on neighbouring centres. He explained that Bootle was one of two town centres in Sefton; the other was Southport, which had been identified as the large retail, leisure and cultural centres of the borough. They were both well connected by road and rail. He said Bootle was the main food and non-food shopping centre for south Sefton and provided jobs for 5,000 people. The vast majority of the floor space was within the Strand shopping centre, this has a vacancy rate of around 13%. Deprivation and low quality housing were evident in South Sefton and the area had suffered through the decline of the traditional economic base in the area. Part of the HMRI a regenerated town centre could bring people back. Bootle is classified as 2nd priority. A heath check, carried out on Bootle town centre, found there were good and healthy aspects but it was in a vulnerable position and likely to get worse because of other developments, particularly with Liverpool One. The recent opening of an Asda store had not changed this situation. It was not disputed that while Kirkby has deprivation, it is on the decline while Liverpool, Bootle and St. Helens are deteriorating and it was established that Bootle has a higher crime rate.
Mrs. Burden closed the inquiry for the day.
|Author:||Herefordblue [ Wed Apr 29, 2009 10:27 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Re: ENQUIRY WEEK 7 - DAYS 25-28|
http://www.keioc.net/index.php?mact=New ... turnid=130
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.
|Author:||Herefordblue [ Wed Apr 29, 2009 10:28 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Re: ENQUIRY WEEK 7 - DAYS 25-28|
http://www.keioc.net/index.php?mact=New ... turnid=130
Day 28 – People of Kirkby ignored over stadium concerns
Mr. Peter Fisher asked that no weight be given to the letters as they were not produced into the inquiry in time and were used to undermine his witness. They should have been introduced as core documents; Mr. Clarkson wanted them given Inquiry Document status and was in fact using them as such. Planning Inspector Mr. Jackson informed Mr. Fisher that they were to be treated as such.
Mrs. Burden informed the inquiry that there had been an administrative error. They will not have special status but will be treated as ordinary written representation.
Mr. Fisher introduced Mr. Ian Smith, the leader of the Liberal Democrats in Knowsley.
Mr. Smith explained that he had first been made aware of the potential development by Tesco in a letter from the chief executive in 2006.
Mr. Smith felt that KMBC had given preferential treatment to Tesco, Development Securities, the previous owner of the Town Centre and potential developers of a proposal that did not include a football stadium, were out of the loop.
He was invited to a public meeting on the plans in July 2007. He attended with Cllr Fricker and said a few words about Prescot. He felt the Cables retail park had split Prescot in half and had been detrimental to the traditional town centre.
He said it was clear there were very deep reservations about the football stadium on the Valley Road site. He agreed it was not normal to hold a ballot on developments but Prescot had been given a ballot in 1987 so it is not unprecedented. He explained that it was a way of accurately gauging how people felt on important matters. In this case, he thought a referendum would have been a better way of finding out how people really felt than a consultation and that it was clear people wanted a vote.
Mrs. Burden asked if local concerns were more about the stadium than the retail?
Mr. Smith said that they were and that Councillors had gone underground. Mrs. Burden replied that she was more concerned with people’s views on the stadium than their views on Councillors.
Referring to Jeremy Williams’ proof of evidence Mr. Smith said that Mr. Williams had said Knowsley Council regarded Cables retail park, in Prescot, as forming part of the town centre but he did not hold that view. He felt that Cables doesn’t feel part of Prescot and that the town centre is struggling, it had high vacancy levels and was starting to look like a ghost town. There will be a further £6.1M from Prescot lost to Kirkby, if this project went ahead; Prescot can't afford to lose a single penny, either in their Town Centre or in Cables. The three Knowsley centres are meant to have equal status. The KRUDP is still the primary document that the council works to.
He thought this proposal would be better pursued through the Development Plan process.
Mr. Clarkson began his cross-examination of Mr. Smith.
He first of all asked if there are minutes on the group’s position? Mr. Smith replied that all Councillors want regenerated town centres but suggested that people in Kirkby should be asked if they wanted the stadium. Ronnie Round (council leader) didn't want to know the answer. The council didn't want to ask people what they wanted.
Mr. Clarkson put it to Mr. Smith that the elected council supports the proposal and that Mr. Smith was just an individual expressing a view. He said the group’s position was, in principle, to support the regeneration of Kirkby town centre - nobody could disagree with that. He said they had asked for specific questions in the consultation documents about whether local people wanted a stadium or not, but said they were denied this.
Mr. Clarkson next enquired about the ballot paper that the Liberal Democrats had put out and to which only 3% responded; Mr. Smith replied that 85% didn't want a stadium and Knowsley make decisions on smaller numbers than that. It had in fact had more respondents than George Howarth’s poll.
Mr Smith agreed that KMBC had supported the proposal but thought they had been misled. He thought a lot of people were concerned about the stadium and the size of the retail development. He felt that his opinion should be given weight as he was leader of Prescot town council, was leader of the Liberal Democrats on KMBC and his ward bordered Kirkby. He said Tesco and Everton were trying to devalue the opinions of the people of Kirkby. He said he was trying to pass on the opinions of the people of Kirkby, who had contacted him, to say they did not feel they had the chance to express their views.
Mr. Barrett cross-examined Mr. Smith on behalf of Knowsley Council.
Mr Barrett asked to see the minutes of a meeting held where the Knowsley Constituency Liberal Democrat councillors decided their position on Destination Kirkby, Mr. Smith said he was happy to provide this information to the inquiry.
Once again the applicants were allowed to introduce evidence that they had failed to submit. Mr. Barrett referred to an e-mail dated May 2007 addressed to all the Liberal Democrat Councillors, which explained the group’s position on the Kirkby proposals at that time. It was designed to be the only comment made to the media. It said, “In principle we feel this is a very positive proposal, it was a major investment that had the potential to revitalise the centre of Kirkby and create new jobs but without the stadium” It explained “the group would be in a better position to declare their position after the consultation.”
Mr. Smith told the inquiry he remembered the e-mail but he said it did not change his view that there should have been a referendum and if they had been in power, there would have been a referendum; he thought the regeneration of Kirkby town centre was “vital and long overdue” but he thought the development could do this without the presence of the stadium.
Of greater concern was the fact that the applicants had been allowed to introduce this evidence. Mr Jackson asked for the to be released. Mr. Barrett appeared to be the only person with a copy. Mr. Barrett was ordered to make copies available before adjournment.
Apparently Mr. Barrett later explained that Knowsley Council knew what Mr Smith was suggesting, regarding being supportive, was untrue and wanted the facts to be made clear; a pity this stance wasn’t adopted on all matters concerning Destination Kirkby.
Mr Fisher clarified a couple of points with Mr. Smith. Mr. Fisher wanted to know what powers the planning committee have? Mr. Smith explained that the full council couldn’t overturn planning decisions made by the committee and that on this occasion the council had contravened their policies by completely ignoring the findings of the consultation process.
Mr. Tom Norman addressed the inquiry on behalf of the Kirkby Traders Association.
Tom told the inquiry that there is a need for increased retail in Kirkby but not of this scale. He explained that Everton wouldn't be interested in Kirkby if they weren't getting £52M off Tesco and this whole scenario has become little more than a mad scramble for land with a real danger the existing town centre would not be regenerated.
Tom went on to explain that 100% population would welcome Tesco into the old Asda store. But that with this current proposal Kirkby town centre will sink into anonymity within 10 years. He said they would have to live with the decision or the problems it may cause and that it was important for this and the following generations that the decision was the correct one. Tom explained to the inquiry “plans to regenerate Kirkby would receive a resounding yes from local people but not plans of this magnitude.”
Tom explained that the KTA, which is the original KTA, surveyed 204 traders in the town center. The results were 17% for, 63% against and 20% didn't know.
He thought the only jobs specifically for local people were the 700 or so in the retail sector and would be mainly part time. He felt other jobs would go as a result of the competition and that self service tills coming in would mean even less part time jobs. He described just how detrimental the Tesco store and Cables Retail Park had been on Prescot town centre. He said many retailers had gone out of business as a result. He said Knowsley Council were aware of this yet seemed content to let the same thing happen in Kirkby.
In Prescot, the elderly can't access Cables Retail Park as it's too far to walk and they can't afford taxis. Prescot town centre is full of solicitors and opticians who have set up in the old shops. You can't actually buy anything.
Mr. Clarkson began his cross-examination by announcing that he challenged everything in Tom’s statement.
In a thinly veiled bid to discredit the group Mr. Clarkson asked when the KTA were formed, wanted to see their constitution and asked for a list of their members.
Tom refused; he stated he was afraid of Councillors and Tesco. He had given list of names to the programme officer but did not want them revealed for fear of reprisals.
A theatrical Mr. Clarkson said that this was a monstrous suggestion and put it to Tom that the members didn't exist.
Tom explained that people would be victimized. One of our members had already lost a contract. I'm not going to subject members to further victimization.
KEIOC are full aware of the individual that lost a large commercial contract from Knowsley, the council placed the contract with a firm outside the borough.Mr. Barrett cross-examined Mr Norman, on behalf of Knowsley Council.
Mr Barrett said he wanted to correct a number of factual errors.
Mr Barrett highlighted information that showed the shift of emphasis in shopping in Prescot from the High Street to Eccleston Street and this had happened prior to the opening of Tesco. Eccleston Street was trading steadily and told the inquiry that vacancy rates had varied following the opening of Tesco, it had not been a steady decline. Tom replied, “it was not just about occupancy levels, it was about what was on offer in the town centre. Shops that had sold goods had changed to betting shops and charity shops.” Tom went on to state that you could make figures say anything; with more than a hint of irony, Mr. Barrett stated that this was exactly his point.
Mr. Dodd of KRISP then cross-examined Tom Norman.
Mr. Dodd asked Tom if he believed that this development would create only 700 jobs? Tom pointed out that this was the opinion of Tesco, not his.
Mr. Dodd then asked, “How did you reach your conclusion about job losses in the town centre?” Tom explained it was relatively simple; he had asked the traders about fears of losing business and their livelihoods, as they would be unable to compete with Tesco.
Ms. Irene Brand, the owner of a window blind shop in the town centre, addressed the inquiry.
Irene explained she was a proud member of the KTA. She had 2 shops and employed 20 local people. Her opinion was that phase four of the development, due to start as late as 2020 wouldn’t happen. If it ever did, by then the town centre would be empty, a desert of lost businesses.
Irene explained that her business had been going for many years and that while she recognised competition was part of business life she felt this development would prevent people shopping in the existing town centre and have a detrimental effect on her and her employee’s lives.
Rather than regeneration this development is going to lead to poverty, insecurity and unemployment. Irene asked the inquiry why should I pay £32,000 in rent and a £10,000 lease to someone who wants to put me out of business?
Mr. Patrick Clarkson cross-examined Ms. Irene Brand.
Mr. Clarkson asked, “How could Tesco put a blinds shop out of business; would Tesco be selling window blinds?” Irene replied that they didn’t at the moment but who knows in the future. She didn't want to be in the town centre on her own. Also she had just been shown a map that had her shop demolished to make a walkthrough. She wanted to know what was going on. A somewhat surprised Mr. Clarkson didn’t know but later explained that his enquiries had revealed that displaced businesses would be offered the chance to relocate. That’s alright then.
Mr. Jason Keen, the proprietor of Trevor's card shop in the town centre, addressed the inquiry.
Jason explained his was a family business that had been in Kirkby for thirty-one years. Jason told the inquiry that the spread of supermarkets throughout the UK were putting small shops out of business and creating deserted town centres; this is a possibility at Kirkby. He offered the view that if regeneration of the town centre was the aim of the scheme then it should be phase one not phase four.
Jason explained that they had paid a king’s ransom in rent and rates over the years and that while they had often reconsidered their future in the town centre they realised they had a responsibility to their loyal staff but this proposal was a “hammer blow” which they would not be able to recover from.
Jason had been trying to get a new lease from Tesco but they were being very difficult and continually asked himself “why have they bought the town centre if they are not going to develop it?”
Jason concluded his statement by explaining “The green space that you see on entering the town is a credit to town management. Once it has gone, it can't be brought back; we will be left with flooding, land erosion and light pollution.”
Mr. Clarkson cross-examined Jason on behalf of the applicants.
Mr Clarkson asked for clarification that Jason’s original dispute over his lease had been with Development Securities, not Tesco. Jason agreed with this and explained that he had put an offer to Tesco but had not received a response.
Mr. Rodney Smith, the proprietor of Reds Café in the town centre addressed the inquiry.
Rodney explained to the inquiry that he has invested over £125,000 in his café business as he thought with a redeveloped town centre the town had a real future, he employs four full time staff and five part time staff and also trades as a market caterer; he has thirteen years left on his lease. His business had been operating for three years but was now feeling disillusioned after the changes to the plan for the town centre; his position was clear, “the North and South of Cherryfield Drive sites are not the town centre, the town centre currently exists.”
Rodney’s ancestors are the Webster’s, this Civic Suite was built on their farm and Webster Drive is named in their memory, he did not appreciate it being turned into a retail car park.
His opinion was that the people of Kirkby have been hoodwinked into this; he thought the scale was wholly unsuitable and felt the wording of the consultation document had been misleading; the whole application has been stage-managed and the media had not been impartial on this matter. The developers had failed to listen to the community and he described how some people felt manipulated and betrayed. He said he felt the traders would support the proposals if there were genuine consultation but that the exclusivity deal signed by the axis of power has prevented real consultation.
If only the energy put into this had been directed into something positive.
Mr. Jackson closed the inquiry for the day.
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