Heritage body Historic England says it is unhappy with Everton’s current plan for a £500m stadium in Liverpool’s docklands and wants the project ‘called in’ by the Secretary of State. Tony McDonough reports
Everton’s £500m plan for a new stadium in Liverpool’s northern docklands could be further delayed if Historic England gets its way.
Despite the club last week revealing it had changed the design of the 52,000-seat arena at Bramley Moore Dock to address heritage concerns, Historic England says this does not go far enough and wants the project to be ‘called in’ by the Secretary of State.
It says the club’s plan to fill in the Grade II-listed Bramley Moore Dock would “fundamentally change its historic character” and would be to the detriment of the city’s World Heritage Status.
This latest intervention is sure to anger business leaders even further as they claim the heritage lobby now has too much power over development in the city and is scaring away potential investors.
Last week Frank McKenna, chief executive of business lobby group Downtown in Business called on the city council to abandon its World Heritage Status. On Thursday, he once again voiced his frustration following the blocking of the £5m Liverpool zip wire project by Mayor Joe Anderson.
Colin Chong, Everton’s stadium development director, says that following feedback from the initial consultation, some modifications have been made to the original plan. This includes a reduction in the overall height of the structure to comply with World Heritage site guidelines
This will not mean the club will have to submit a new planning application but it will mean there will be another formal statutory consultation period of 28 days before the council planning committee makes a decision, probably in December. Everton would be keen to start construction in early 2021.
However, the latest intervention from Historic England could mean a start date is pushed back further. Historic England said: “We acknowledge the potential benefits that a new stadium could bring to north Liverpool and we understand the challenges that the area faces.
“The dock has planning permission for residential development so there are potential alternative solutions that could retain the water-filled dock whilst developing the currently derelict area. We do not believe that the city faces a stark choice between dereliction or football stadium.
“However, we consider that the proposal to infill the dock would fundamentally change its historic character as a water-filled basin which so clearly tells the story of the docks and has contributed to its status as a World Heritage Site.
“Due to the impact of the proposals on a World Heritage Site, which has the highest level of heritage protection and is internationally significant, we regrettably think that this application should be determined by the Secretary of State and will ask for it to be called in for his determination.
“We have also advised that the application should be refused, unless the decision-maker concludes that the public benefits would outweigh the damage to Bramley Moore dock and the harm to the World Heritage Site which the proposals would cause.”