Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership has urged the heritage lobby to drop its opposition to Everton’s new £500m arena saying any delays would be a ‘huge mistake’ Tony McDonough reports
One of the north of England’s leading business and economic figures has told the heritage lobby to back off and drop their opposition to Everton’s £500m new stadium.
Both Historic England and the Victorian Society are opposing the current plans for the 52,888-seat arena at Liverpool Waters in the city’s Northern Docklands. Specifically, they object to the infilling of the Grade II-listed Bramley Moore Dock.
Late last week Everton submitted amended plans for the stadium which seek to address some of the concerns of the heritage lobby. It will go out to consultation and be decided on by city planners in December. If they give the go-ahead the club will look to start work early in 2021.
However, Historic England is urging the Secretary of State to ‘call in’ the project and refuse it in its current form. The Victorian Society claims the plans would cause “incontrovertible harm”. It is feared any delay to Everton’s timetable could threaten the whole scheme, which offers a wider potential £1bn benefit to the city.
Now Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, a powerful organisation of business and political leaders, has weighed in saying the project must go ahead for the good of the city.
Mr Murison said: “Unnecessarily delaying a £1bn mega-project such as this would be a huge mistake. Historic England’s reading of the requirements of the World Heritage Status, which has already served its purpose in establishing Liverpool’s visitor brand, shows that the time may have come when the disadvantages for the city outweigh any residual benefits it brings.”
“In reality, the power of such a scheme can prove transformative in unlocking the true economic potential of Liverpool and the North in both the short- and long-term. Projects like this represent a critical example of the role that forward-thinking organisations such as Everton and their wider partners can play in investing in local communities and ‘building back better’ – closing the North/South divide one step at a time.”
Continued opposition to the stadium plan by the heritage lobby has frustrated and angered people both inside and outside of the project, particularly as Everton has put a great deal of effort into understanding their concerns and being prepared to compromise on the design.
Richard Kenyon, chief executive of the club’s official charity, Everton in the Community, said they had gone to great lengths to not just protect the area’s heritage but to “enhance it, celebrate it and showcase it”.
He added: “We are looking at redeveloping a site that is part of the city’s history but currently derelict. We wanted to put that front and centre of our position.”
And Frank McKenna, chief executive of Liverpool business lobby group, Downtown in Business has been scathing of the heritage lobby and its attempts at what he sees as impeding the city’s economic growth.