Page last updated at 19:00 GMT, Friday, 6 February 2009

Everton face wait on stadium plan

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

Everton Football Club could be waiting until next season before they find out if their new stadium can go ahead.

The 400m development would see the club move to Kirkby as part of a complex with a Tesco superstore.

A public inquiry into the proposals has ended after 36 days of evidence, but the final report will not be given to the Secretary of State until June.

Everton chief executive Robert Elstone said he was still confident the ground could be built for the 2011-12 season.

Everton, Tesco and Knowsley Borough Council say the project could create more than 2,300 jobs, including 350 which Tesco has earmarked for long-term unemployed people in the area.

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. It views the development as vital to the regeneration of the town.

I am confident that the powers that be are aware of how important timing is to the overall project
Robert Elstone, Everton chief executive

For Everton, the new stadium is key to attracting a new buyer and secure its financial future, Mr Elstone has previously said.

During the inquiry, evidence submitted on behalf of the club by sports consultants Deloitte showed it could generate about 6m extra revenue a year.

Everton had expected a decision by the spring, but Mr Elstone said: "We are very happy with the way the inquiry went.

"We answered some tough questions in impressive fashion and, in the course of doing that, were able to put right some misconceptions that had emerged.

"Throughout this process we have been keen to stress there is an urgent need to move and also a unique opportunity not just for Everton but also for the people of Kirkby.

"On that basis, and with the news today it may well be June before the inspector can finalise the report, we have to be certain we can hit the ground running to achieve a 2011 start date for the completed stadium.

"We will be discussing in more detail the timetable with our partners with a view to seeing if there is any way the decision can be accelerated.

"But I am confident that the powers that be are aware of how important timing is to the overall project."

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.

Residents of Kirkby - and fans of the club - are split on the proposals.

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