Colin Chong, Everton’s Stadium Development Director, delivered a stadium update to all supporters. The blog, featured below, confirms the Club’s technical project team, highlights some of the important design amends, anticipates a planning determination by the end of the year and how the Club aims to be on site early in 2021.
I hope this email finds you and your family safe and well.
I am writing to provide an update on the work that has been taking place in the months since the submission of our planning application for our proposed new home at Bramley-Moore Dock.
Since our submission we have been in the midst of a global pandemic which has had a significant impact and placed a substantial strain on development projects globally. However, I am pleased to say that our work has continued in line with our project plan and we welcome the Government’s ‘build, build, build…’ approach to stimulate the economy on a national level. We also support and will make a significant contribution to Liverpool City Region’s ambition to ‘build back better’, by ensuring development isn’t about just bricks and mortar but about aiding the economic recovery of Liverpool through inclusive growth, jobs, local supply chain opportunities and lessening the harmful impact on the environment.
Perhaps now, more than ever, our proposed stadium is a fundamental part of this region’s growth plan and will be a key driver for much-needed economic development in North Liverpool and beyond.
I’m sure you won’t need reminding that, as well as being a hugely important scheme for the football club, this is a project that will:
Generate a £1billion boost to the economy
Create up to 15,000 jobs
Attract 1.5million visitors to the city
In fact, research we are currently undertaking suggests the social and economic benefits of the scheme may actually be even greater than those outlined above – and we will provide an update on this in due course.
The project team
The past few months has been an important period for us. We have been responding to planning queries and have established our technical and delivery team in anticipation of planning approval.
Following a detailed and comprehensive tender process, we appointed Laing O’Rourke as our preferred building contractor. Through their own transparent tender process, they appointed Pattern as the project’s technical architect, working and engaging directly with Laing O’Rourke.
Buro Happold and Planit-IE have been retained as engineering consultants and landscape architects respectively.
It is crucial to have these organisations in place now to ensure maximum efficiency and that all elements of the project are joined up at every stage. We have every confidence in the project team assembled.
Representatives from across this project team have recently been on-site carrying out several further surveys on the land and existing structures as we gather the data we need ahead of a determination by the planning authorities
Planning application update and timescales
As you will be aware, the scale and detail of the planning application for Bramley-Moore Dock makes it one of the largest our local authority has ever received.
Over the past few months, Liverpool City Council’s planning department has been consulting on the applications with the Liverpool public, as well as neighbouring authorities, emergency services, heritage and environment organisations and other regional and national stakeholders.
As part of this process – and to address some of the feedback from consultees – we have been working with the Council and other agencies to amend some elements of the designs that were originally consulted on and submitted as part of our application.
These updated designs will be formally submitted to the Council in early September and some of the new visuals can be viewed below.
I am sure you will agree they significantly enhance a stadium concept that was already quite stunning.
While these updated plans will not require the submission of a full new planning application, they will require a formal public consultation on the revised elements.
This consultation, led by the Council, is anticipated to last 28 days and will be an opportunity for everyone to comment on these additional features.
Following this, and due to the size of the application, Liverpool City Council may need to convene a special planning committee meeting towards the end of the year to give their determination to our application. The detail of this determination is likely to dictate whether the application will also need to be reviewed by central Government.
This additional local consultation, together with some aspects of the project relating to third parties having slowed slightly due to the impact of COVID-19, means that – subject to planning approval and finalising our funding packages – it is most likely that work could commence on-site early in 2021.
As there are currently so many factors over which we do not have direct control, it would be unwise to commit to a specific date when our build will commence – or when we are likely to be playing in the new stadium. However, we have every confidence in our project plan and the team we have assembled to deliver it. And, as I’m sure you know, everyone at the Club is entirely committed to getting us into a new home at Bramley-Moore Dock as soon as we possibly can.
Respecting and enhancing heritage has always been a key principle for us in this project and our team has continued to work with heritage-related organisations over the past few months.
It was very pleasing to see that the Merseyside Civic Society – the city’s foremost heritage group campaigning to preserve the best of Merseyside’s existing buildings and spaces – recently supported our plans. They – along with other heritage organisations – have been keen to acknowledge the care we have taken in devising our proposals and for respecting the site’s history and heritage.
However, at some point in the coming weeks, you may become aware of objections to our proposed scheme being made to Liverpool City Council by Historic England and the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), a heritage body acting on behalf of UNESCO.
Our team has worked extensively and collaboratively with Historic England over many months – and we know they are aware of and appreciate the significant benefits the stadium will bring to both the Club and the city region. They also appreciate the changes we have made to our designs to further enhance and showcase the heritage of the site.
Historic England, together with ICOMOS, believe our proposals should be reviewed by the Government due to their concerns over the impact our plans to infill the dock could have on what is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Conservation Area. Similar concerns have also been raised by the Victorian Society.
While we understand the position of these organisations, we also know that local politicians, the more than 60,000 people who took part in our public consultations, our business community and third sector stakeholders all have a different view and fully support our proposals. The local public has told us – in huge numbers – that they believe the public benefits of our plans far outweigh the suggested level of harm to the heritage assets.
That is not to say that the public do not appreciate the heritage of Liverpool’s world-class waterfront. They do. It is just that they would prefer to see our project come forward at Bramley-Moore Dock and see history and heritage showcased through a new vibrant development which respects and reflects our dockland history.
As you will know from our previous consultation stages, our plans mean we will be opening up a site for civic use that has been semi-derelict and inaccessible to the public for many years, while also preserving and enhancing some of Bramley-Moore Dock’s key features, such as the Grade II listed hydraulic tower.
We will maintain the visual interconnectivity to neighbouring docks, preserve the site’s original features as far as possible and protect the dock walls under the stadium. And so, if the Club did decide to move or relocate in the distant future, the site could be reverse engineered back into a dock.
While we completely respect the organisations making these objections and the reasons they are making them, we strongly believe this development represents a vital economic and social catalyst for the north of the City at a time when it has never been more needed, while, at the same time, celebrating and showcasing the heritage of the site and the surrounding area.
Indeed, our stadium project is a centrepiece in the city’s new North Shore Vision to further extend Liverpool’s world-class waterfront. This will be an example of how sensitive heritage-led regeneration can bring about transformational change and provide a much-needed boost to the economy.
Our design improvements will enhance the stadium architecturally and aesthetically – and are in line with feedback from the consultation process conducted over the past few months, including our discussions with heritage-related organisations.
The most visual of the design improvements is around the West Stand (the stand facing the River Mersey).
As you will see from the images, we have introduced a new river-facing stepped plaza and removed the multi-storey car park, which helps with the symmetry of the stadium and brings back river views for supporters in the West Stand and from the top of the stepped plaza.
As well as enhancing symmetry and general aesthetics, this new stepped plaza creates a covered fan area which protects supporters and the turnstile and lounge entrances from any inclement weather.
As initially presented in our second Public Consultation, the West Quay will accommodate parking for some of our disabled supporters.
The solar panels originally proposed on the West Quay will now be relocated to the stadium roof, freeing up and decluttering the quay for non-matchday use and allowing for extra matchday parking.
This also improves the efficiency of this renewable energy source and provides the opportunity to increase the number of solar panels in future, if required.
We have simplified the brick façade and made the tribute to the Archibald Leitch lattice work more obvious on the external brickwork of the stadium.
We have also covered some of the most exposed areas within the stands to better protect supporters from the elements.
Finally, in line with the Council’s World Heritage Site guidance, we have slightly reduced the overall height of the stadium – without affecting capacity in any way.
We believe these enhancements create a stronger connection between the stadium and the Mersey – as well as offering the people of the city and visitors a fantastic new public space to enjoy within a World Heritage Site.
As mentioned earlier, the next public consultation will be led by the Council and will provide the opportunity for everyone to have their say on our updated designs (above).
We will also soon be contacting our Season Ticket and Hospitality Members, as well as supporters on our waiting lists, to understand which areas of the ground they would be most likely to consider purchasing tickets for, what kind of pricing they would expect, and the type of catering and entertainment that would be preferred in hospitality lounges, concourse areas and in the fan plaza.
This important survey will be issued in the coming weeks.
Of course, supporters can check our project website www.peoples-project.co.uk and visit our FAQs page for any specific questions or to submit your own question.
Thank you for taking the time to read this update. I hope you found it interesting and informative. I also hope that you feel reassured that the project continues to move forward, despite the impact of these unprecedented times we have been working through.
While our timeline has been adjusted slightly, I am sure you can appreciate that not everything is directly under our control and the most important thing is that we continue to move forward… forward towards a new home that is not only a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Everton but also for our city, city region and the country as we hopefully begin to put this pandemic behind us in the months ahead.