Keeping Everton in Our City

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 Post subject: "How the stadium fight was won and lost"
PostPosted: Thu Nov 26, 2009 1:20 am 
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name and shame the 2 MPs, or can we guess who they are?!

http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/liverpoo ... -25255948/

EVERTON’S plans to build a new stadium in Kirkby alongside a major Tesco supermarket have been rejected by the government.

Communities secretary John Denham decided the £400m Destination Kirkby project would breach shopping policies which discourage supermarket chains from sucking business away from town and city centres.

But the ECHO can reveal he was only convinced of that yesterday (Wed), two days before he was legally obliged to make up his mind.

A major factor behind his alleged dithering was the potential of the stadium project to regenerate Kirkby, provide the football club with a brand spanking new stadium, pour over £400m into the region, and create up to 7,000 short-term, long-term and supply jobs.

Everton FC last night refused to comment on the decision – which will be officially confirmed today – and the shattering of their dream of a new 50,000-capacity stadium.

But the club is expected to hold a press conference at Goodison Park this afternoon.

A spokesman for retail partner Tesco also refused to comment officially but admitted: "We’re obviously bitterly disappointed and we need to take stock of the decision to decide what we say or do next."

Knowsley Council’s chief executive, Sheena Ramsey has been at the forefront of the plans since their inception.

She said: "Of course we’re extremely disappointed with the decision.

"A lot of hard work has been put into this project that had the interests of the people of Kirkby at the heart of it.

"We cannot comment further until we’ve had time to fully digest the reasons for the decision."

The decision took regional MPs and ministers by surprise.

Most had assumed that the jobs and investment potential would, when it came to the crunch, outweigh shopping policy.

Knowsley North and Sefton East MP George Howarth said: "I deeply regret this decision in a time of significant economic challenge to the whole of Merseyside during a recession.

"It is disappointing that Knowsley council will be unable to take advantage of the regeneration opportunities offered by this proposal.

"We need now to go back to the drawing board to work out an alternative solution to regenerate the town."

Destination Kirkby included a new stadium for Everton, a giant new Tesco store, a retail park, a possible new hotel and a large new bus station.

North West minister Phil Woolas said: "The Secretary of State is bound by planning law.

"The planning inspectorate’s recommendations were very clear and we have to abide by the rules."

The inspectorate’s report has not been published but it said that the Everton-Tesco proposal would "drive a coach and horses" through agreed planning/shopping policy.

Mr Woolas, on the assumption that the plan would get the green light, this week brokered a deal by which Skelmersdale would receive extra funding for housing and schools, plus help for the public-private sector to redevelop the town centre.

That followed complaints from West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper that a massive Tesco’s seven miles away would scupper that redevelopment.

The Woolas rescue plan is now on hold.

A senior government source said: "Rosie played a ferocious game ...and she won. Now we assume that the Skem redevelopment can go ahead without the need for government resources."

Liverpool City Council leader Warren Bradley has been a vociferous opponent of Everton’s move out of the city but was in conciliatory mood today: "I’m saddened by it in some ways.

"The city council objection wasn’t about Everton, it was about the retail which was too large.

"Until I read the inspector’s report, I can’t go into more detail.

"But if Everton now wants to sit with the city council the door is always open."

Other opponents expressed anger at the cost of the project.

Kirkby resident Tony Barton, of the single issue political group 1st4Kirkby, said: "It’s a victory for common sense. But this isn’t time for triumphalism it’s a time to begin the process of finding out why this ever got as far as it has.

"Everyone said it would get called in and rejected, and now it has at a cost of millions to Knowsley people."

John Fleming, of Kirkby Residents Action Group, said: "This proposal would have badly damaged Kirkby and I’m relieved it has been rejected.

"We feel we were excluded from a process that was railroaded through the planning committee. But the issues raised in the public inquiry have been heard and that’s a victory for democracy."

Dave Kelly, of Keep Everton In Our City, perhaps the most vocal opposition group, was taking nothing for granted.

He said: "We feel a sense of anticipation of the official result.

"We’ve always said there’s only one decision that the secretary of state can make and we fully expect to be fully vindicated when we read what he has to say."

But David Dodd, who set up Kirkby Residents In Support of Progress, who gave evidence in support of the stadium bid, said: "I’m appalled and disgusted.

"The government has given the North West a kick in the teeth.

"This would have created thousands of jobs which have now effectively been lost. It’s a disaster."

The 500,000sq ft of retail space associated with the project would have repositioned Kirkby from 11th in the region's shopping hierarchy to possibly 4th.

A senior government source confirmed that both Everton FC and Tesco can apply for a judicial review, either separately or jointly.

But he believed that any such action would be unlikely to succeed.

He said: "Anyone can mount a legal challenge but it would have to meet certain criteria. My view is that it would fall at the first hurdle because the Secretary of State's decision is in line with the planning inspectorate's recommendation."

Former Labour chairman and Cabinet minister Ian McCartney said that the "no" verdict would have severe implications for the North West.

The Makerfield MP said: "My wife Ann is a life-long Evertonian and we are both gutted by this decision.

"Merseyside needs investment and everyone knows that if you invest in sports that creates jobs which are desperately needed at any time, but particularly during a recession."

Some Liverpool city-region MPs are themselves considering a last-ditch appeal to sports secretary Ben Bradshaw and business Secretary Lord Mandelson.


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