After Liverpool planners approved Everton’s £500m stadium, despite UNESCO’s objections, a local business leader said World Heritage Status was now a ‘red flag’ for investors. Tony McDonough reports
Liverpool’s World Heritage Status has become a “red flag” for potential investors and it is time for the city to hand it back, a local business leader has said.
Frank McKenna, chief executive of business lobby group, Downtown in Business, was speaking after councillors on Liverpool City Council’s planning committee unanimously voted in favour of Everton’s proposed £500m new stadium in the city’s docklands.
Officials from Everton FC gave a presentation, and answered detailed questions, during the meeting on Tuesday morning. And they accepted the recommendations of their planning offers that the scheme, at Bramley Moore Dock in Liverpool Waters, be allowed to go ahead.
They also gave approval to an outline plan to transform the club’s current stadium at Goodison Park in Walton into a legacy project comprising affordable housing, a multi-purpose health centre, community-led retail spaces, a youth enterprise zone, office and business facilities and green space.
Everton hopes to begin work at Bramley Moore Dock within Peel L&P’s £5bn Liverpool Waters project by the summer. Its 150-week, 12 stage plan could see the Blues kick off the 2024/25 Premier League season in their new 52,888-capacity home.
However, final sign-off is still needed from the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick, who will review the application. This process typically takes no more than 21 days although it can take a little longer.
Given the strong heritage objections to the project, particularly from UNESCO which is concerned about the impact on Liverpool waterfront’s World Heritage Site, it is possible Mr Jenrick could ‘call in’ the scheme. This would cause a delay of at least several months.
UNESCO said the stadium project was “completely unacceptable”. It is the latest skirmish in a battle between the city and UNESCO over development on the world famous waterfront stretching back more than a decade.
Mr McKenna has been a long time critic of UNESCO and on Tuesday afternoon he repeated his assertion that World Heritage Status was now more trouble than it was worth for a city that was crying out for new investment.
He said: “This is so much more than a football ground. It is regeneration for an area that badly needs it. It means jobs and investment for north Liverpool which is still one of the most deprived parts of the North West.
“I think Ultimately it will also give us the opportunity of attracting many more investors to the Liverpool Waters Site. Fantastic news for Everton and for the city.
“Now we need to seriously consider what happens with World Heritage Status. My view for a long time is that it has been a barrier to development and we have seen UNESCO really be as intransigent as ever over the stadium despite the club’s efforts to protect the heritage on that site.
“And is it now becoming something that is a red flag to potential investors in the future. I think the sensible thing for the city council would be to say to UNESCO ‘thanks for that badge but no thanks’ hand it back and let’s get on with, not just the stadium, but the many other developments that can shape the future of the city of Liverpool and the wider city region.”
Everton chief executive, Denise Barrett-Baxendale, and stadium development director Colin Chong, along with other officials, presented the club’s plans for Bramley-Moore Dock and Goodison Park at the council meeting and fielded questions from the councillors in attendance.
Everton Chairman Bill Kenwright added: “While today is just one more step in our long journey, it is a very important one. Farhad [Moshiri] and I would like to thank Denise and Colin and their dedicated team for the extraordinary hard work and commitment that has got us to today.
“We are also enormously grateful to the many organisations and tens of thousands of individuals across the city region who have given us their feedback, ideas and support along the way. It’s been a good week for Everton and Evertonians.”
Everton has been advised by CBRE UK Planning & Development team and has worked closely with the Liverpool Planning Authority, Historic England and other stakeholders for the past 12-months as part of the planning process.
Professor Barrett-Baxendale has responded to the outcome in a letter to fans, stating, “The project, which will be one the most significant infrastructure projects our city has seen in many years, and one of the largest single site developments in the country at this time, will provide a £1.3bn boost to the local economy and deliver more than 15,000 jobs.
“I am sure you are aware of how important a new stadium will be for us – providing the state-of-the-art facilities befitting of an ambitious Premier League club – as well as the important role it can play in boosting our local economy at a time when it’s never been more needed.”
Within the letter to fans, Professor Barrett-Baxendale also expressed gratitude on behalf of the club’s board of directors to Liverpool City Council and its officers for their work in reviewing “one of the biggest planning applications in the history of our city”.
Liverpool’s Acting Mayor, Cllr Wendy Simon, also said: “I welcome the planning committee’s resolution to approve Everton’s FC application to build a new stadium on Bramley Moore Dock. We now await feedback from the Secretary of State. The city council is committed to supporting a development that will economically benefit this city for decades to come.”