Former ‘Minister for Merseyside’ gives his backing to the docklands proposal as Everton FC executives jet out to the MIPIM expo in Cannes to meet global investors. Tony McDonough reports
Former Minister for Merseyside Lord Heseltine says Everton FC’s proposed new £500m docklands stadium was a “golden opportunity to bring lasting change to the north of the city”.
Everton intends to submit a planning application for the 52,000-capacity area in Bramley Moore Dock, part of Peel’s £5bn Liverpool Waters Project, later this year with the intention of kicking off in its new home at the start of the 2023/24 Premier League season.
The club is also planning to redevelop the land where its existing stadium in Walton, Goodison Park, now stands, creating new community assets after the relocation, building on the award-winning work of its charitable trust, Everton in the Community.
A public consultation exercise held late last year saw overwhelming backing from the Merseyside public for the stadium.
Lord Heseltine, or ‘Hezza’ as he is affectionately known, came to Merseyside following the Toxteth riots in 1981 and spearheaded a regeneration drive, defying the reported disdain for Liverpool among his Conservative Government colleagues, in particular the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
He has remained a fierce advocate for Liverpool having returned many times. He was also the joint author of a report, along with former Tesco chief executive Sir Terry Leahy, that led to the International Business Festival being held in the city in 2014, 2016 and 2018.
Speaking on the eve of Liverpool’s latest mission to the MIPIM international property expo in Cannes, Lord Heseltine, who was also formerly the Deputy Prime Minister, said: “The involvement of a major football club such as Everton as the spearhead of this development is hugely beneficial to the renewal process.
“This is not just for the immediate environments around the stadium facility but is of regional importance to Liverpool because of the wider economic impact.”
Everton chief executive, Professor Denise Barrett-Baxendale ,and stadium development director Colin Chong will both be attending MIPIM, where the club will be discussing its proposals with global influencers from the property and construction sector.
Lord Heseltine added: “There’s no question that taking declining areas, or even semi-derelict areas like Liverpool’s north docks, and giving them a new lease of life, meets every test of regeneration.
“First of all, it reverses the decline; secondly, it uses brownfield sites as opposed to green sites; and it tends to create jobs and investment where people actually are – as opposed to people having to travel long distances. It can simply change the whole atmosphere of a place.
“All that investment combines to create an atmosphere in which other businesses want to be involved and other growth projects emerge. Everton’s plans would change the whole tone and attitude towards the local area, so would serve many purposes beyond the primary sporting purpose.
“It should be remembered that this area of north Liverpool has been in decline for many, many decades so it strikes me that this is an opportunity which the city of Liverpool cannot afford to miss.”
Research carried out by international property consultancy CBRE indicates the stadium project would lead to a £1bn boost to the local economy, the creation of 15,000 new jobs for local people (12,000 during the construction phase), and deliver an estimated additional 1.5m visitors to the city.