Page last updated at 20:52 GMT, Wednesday, 6 August 2008 21:52 UK

New Everton stadium faces inquiry

Everton ground proposal
Everton had feared a delay could kill off the stadium scheme

Everton Football Club's proposed move to a new stadium out of Liverpool has been called in for a public inquiry.

Government officials announced the decision on the 400m Kirkby development, which also includes a Tesco superstore, on Wednesday evening.

The club previously expressed fears an inquiry would put back the project for up to a year.

In a statement club officials said they were disappointed by the decision, but stressed it "did not spell the end".

The 50,000-seat stadium proposals are part of the wider regeneration of Kirkby town centre, which is in Liverpool's neighbouring borough of Knowsley.

The Department for Communities and Local Government, which has been assessing the application, said ministers had carefully considered the plans.

It is important to stress that this decision does not spell the end of the Destination Kirkby project
Everton statement

A spokesman said: "We recognise that there have been strong views expressed about this complex proposal.

"Ministers thought long and hard about the case and decided the only appropriate decision was to call it in.

"There is a long-established process in place where less than 0.01% of all planning cases are called in.

"A case is considered to have more than local significance if it triggers one or more of the call-in criteria such as conflict with national policy, or if it causes national or regional controversy.

"The decision to call-in does not consider the merits or otherwise of an application - which is a matter for the inspector to consider at inquiry."

Fans split

In a statement, Everton officials said: "We are disappointed by the decision.

"Having spent more than two years working diligently on a project which would not only provide Everton Football Club with a new home but also regenerate Kirkby, we had hoped to avoid a government call-in.

"Indeed, it was only in June that Knowsley Borough Council's Planning Committee voted by a majority of 20 to one to grant planning permission.

"We shall now engage in detailed discussions with our development partners, KBC and Tesco, to assess what options are open to us.

"It is important to stress that this decision does not spell the end of the Destination Kirkby project - but it will, self-evidently, precipitate a period of reflection, assessment and re-evaluation."

We will do all we can to keep the scheme alive and make sure the future of Kirkby is not put at risk
Councillor Ron Round

The leader of Knowsley Council, Councillor Ron Round, added: "We are extremely disappointed as a public inquiry will delay the development.

"Indeed this delay, in the current economic climate, places the entire project in jeopardy.

"From all of the consultation we have carried out, we believe that the majority of local residents are in favour of transforming Kirkby.

"We have searched long and hard for years to attract the right investor to Kirkby and this scheme cannot be equalled.

"We will do all we can to keep the scheme alive and make sure the future of Kirkby is not put at risk."

Although season ticket holders narrowly voted in favour of the move, the decision to move out of Liverpool has split fans' opinion.

Residents of Kirkby have also expressed opposition to the development, claiming it is simply "too big" for the area.

The public inquiry is expected to be held within the next 12 months.


SEE ALSO
Councils called to oppose stadium
06 May 08 |  Merseyside
Residents shown new Everton plans
30 Apr 08 |  Merseyside
Gran in Tesco boss planning war
12 Apr 08 |  Merseyside

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