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Everton's new stadium dream dashed

Any dreams of a new stadium for Everton Football Club look set to vanish into thin air as plans for their new ground are expected to be turned down

The club hoped to move from Goodison Park in Liverpool to a new £400 million stadium and shopping centre in Kirkby, an impoverished suburb of Knowsley.

The development would have created around 7,000 jobs in the town, but the scheme was called in by Communities Secretary Hazel Blears in August 2008.

It is understood that, following the public inquiry, the scheme had now been rejected.

According to AJ sources, the main reason behind the Communities and Local Government Department’s decision was that the development might take money away from other Merseyside centres.

The stadium was part of a wider, retail-led redevelopment being spearheaded by supermarket giant Tesco and masterplanned by Broadway Malyan’s retail arm in London. Back in March 2008, CABE raised concerns about the scheme – fears that were not allayed despite the KSS Design Group being brought in as a ‘specialist stadium adviser’ (click here to read the full design review).

Knowsley Council were unavailable for comment on Wednesday night.

A Tesco spokesman said: ‘We have not been formally notified yet, but we are expecting to be told in the morning when we will be able to comment.’

An opponent of the move, Ian Morris, of the Kirkby Residents’ Action Group, said: ‘Kirkby is only a small town and they were talking about a 55,000-seater stadium built right in the town with a huge retail development, which we thought was inappropriate. It would have had a major negative effect on the retailers working in the existing town centre.

‘The stadium would have disrupted everybody’s lives every time there was a football match.’

Postscript

The Chairman of Downtown Liverpool in Business Frank McKenna said: ‘This is a major blow to Everton, and also to the city’s bid to host World Cup games in 2018, should England be successful in its bid to host the Finals.

‘With the financial difficulties that both Everton and Liverpool face, surely there is a need for a shared stadium to be seriously debated, with the City Council taking a lead in that discussion. Football is of massive importance to this city, economically and culturally, and it must make sense for our teams to explore an option that, in business terms, appears to offer the best solution.’

Update 27.11.09

A Labour MP and former minister has threatened to withdraw his support from the Government over its refusal to back a £400 million building plan for Everton Football Club’s new stadium.

Former Home Office minister George Howarth launched a scathing attack on Communities and Local Government Secretary John Denham’s decision and called for a rethink.

He added the Government has missed a chance to pump money into one of the most deprived areas of England.

In the Commons, Mr Howarth, MP for Knowlsey North and Sefton East, said: “He (John Denham) has turned down £400 million worth of private sector investment into Kirkby in my constituency.

“Kirkby … is one of the most deprived towns in Britain. And frankly I am astonished that the Government could turn away £400 million of investment in a town that desperately needs regeneration, a town that still needs investment in jobs and it would have produced thousands of jobs.”

In a statement rejecting the proposal, the Government said the development would be likely to have a harmful effect on the vitality and viability of Kirkby, Bootle, Skelmersdale and St Helens.

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