Page last updated at 22:09 GMT, Monday, 7 December 2009

'Glimmer of hope' for Everton Kirkby stadium plan

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

Aborted plans for Everton's new stadium in Kirkby could still be included in revised plans to regenerate the town.

North West Minister Phil Woolas met Knowsley Council to explore new ways of regenerating the town after a stadium proposal with Tesco was rejected.

Officials are examining whether the retail section of the plans can be revised and resubmitted in 2010.

Although Everton were not included in the talks, Mr Woolas said a stadium could be incorporated in the future.

Mr Woolas said the prime minister had asked him to see what could be done to revive the plans to give the people of Kirkby a "modern town centre".

"We had the big scheme with Everton Football Club and Tesco - that got knocked back for planning reasons - so it is very important we get a new scheme in place as soon as possible," said the minister.

It's very early days but there is a glimmer of hope
George Howarth MP

"The scheme that we are looking at for the town centre does not include a football stadium.

"What I'm saying on behalf of the government is that we're not going to abandon the need for regeneration in Kirkby just because we've been knocked back at this stage."

Mr Woolas said he would now seek urgent talks with Tesco, before reconvening with the revised plans in the new year.

But he said if there was still an appetite for a stadium it could become part of phase two of the project.

"If people and the club do want the stadium as part of a future phase that's up to them - it's certainly not being ruled out by the government."

'Glimmer of hope'

Speaking ahead of the meeting, local MP George Howarth said there were "lots of bridges to cross" before any new stadium plans could be drawn up.

And Mr Howarth, the Labour MP for Knowsley North and Sefton East, said: "My primary concern isn't about Blues fans, Everton, or the stadium. My primary concern is for the regeneration of Kirkby."

But he hinted that England's bid to host the 2018 World Cup could also be a factor in returning to the plans.

"If we were to win the bid there wouldn't be any of the matches played on Merseyside because there isn't a suitable stadium," he added.

"It's very early days but there is a glimmer of hope."

Councillor Ron Round, leader of Knowsley Council, said Monday's meeting was productive, but added his focus was very much on Kirkby and not the stadium proposal.

"We discussed options for how we are going to regenerate Kirkby and I felt as if we made significant progress," he said.

"We all agreed that we need to maintain the momentum to ensure that the people of Kirkby have a town centre that they can be proud of.

"At this stage we are not ruling a stadium in or out of the plans but our main emphasis is on regeneration."

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