Page last updated at 21:24 GMT, Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Everton stadium plans 'are wrong'

Everton ground proposal
The new stadium would seat 50,000 supporters

Everton Football Club's plans to build a 50,000-seat stadium are "wrong", campaigners told a public inquiry.

The 400m development would see the club move to Kirkby and be part of a complex of shops, offices, hotels and a Tesco superstore.

The scheme was approved by Knowsley Council in June but Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Hazel Blears later rejected them.

Keep Everton in Our City (KEIOC) was formed in 2007 to oppose the plans.

Dave Kelly, chairman of KEIOC, which is made up of Everton fans, told the inquiry on Tuesday: "I love my town Kirkby as much as I love Everton Football Club.

The application will deliver a considerable number and range of benefits
John Francis, planning consultant

"But I don't think they sit together.

"The great land giveaway is wrong for the people of Kirkby.

"I believe (Everton) should stay in the Liverpool Capital of Culture 2008," added Mr Kelly, a season ticket holder of 35 years.

The hearing, held in the Kirkby Civic Suite, Cherryfield Drive, Kirkby, is expected to last at least four weeks with a decision made by the spring.

If the plans are given the go-ahead, more than 2,300 jobs could be created, including 350 which Tesco has earmarked for long-term unemployed people and Knowsley residents.

Knowsley Council has said the development would also attract an extra 1.2m visitors to the borough every year, spending an additional 13.6m in the local economy.

'Range of benefits'

Mr Kelly added: "You need only to make one recommendation and that is to refuse it planning permission."

Kirkby is one of the most socially and economically-deprived areas in the North West.

The first witness, planning consultant John Francis, read from a report he wrote in support of the plans which was sent to Ms Blears's department.

In the document Mr Francis said: "It is an understatement to suggest it, the proposed site and the town centre, is badly in need of regeneration.

"The application will deliver a considerable number and range of benefits."

The plans are being opposed by Liverpool City Council and group of other authorities - Sefton Council, St Helens Council, West Lancashire Council and Lancashire County Council.

But several Kirkby residents have also been supporting the plans.

One group, Kirkby Residents In Support of Progress (KRISP), has collected hundreds of signatures from local people in support of the new stadium.

The inquiry is expected to last four weeks.

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