Business group criticises Everton stadium heritage concerns

Business group Northern Powerhouse Partnership (NPP) has hit out at criticism from heritage bodies of Premier League football club Everton’s new stadium plan, stating “unnecessarily delaying” the project would be a “huge mistake”.

Everton last week formally submitted to Liverpool City Council an amendment to its planning application for a new 52,888-capacity stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock on Liverpool’s waterfront. The amendments, first revealed to fans at the end of August, include changes designed to address concerns put forward by heritage lobby groups.

The Victorian Society and Historic England have both made public their issues with the project, and TheStadiumBusiness.com understands Everton is frustrated they have chosen to do so when the club believes cordial talks have been held and subsequent changes made.

Historic England this month called on the Government to reject Everton’s plans for their new stadium. The body said it has liaised extensively with Everton officials for some time, but fears the development at the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Liverpool – which dates back to the 1840s – would “harm” what it considers an “outstanding example of dock design and cargo-handling which influenced ports around the globe”.

While Historic England – a public body created to protect England’s historic places – said it appreciated the steps taken by Everton to revise its plans for the 52,000-capacity arena in recent months, it is the club’s plans to infill the dock at the Grade II-listed structure that cause the greatest concern.

NPP, a group designed to help develop consensus among businesses, civic leaders and others about how the north of England can be more successful, has now waded into the debate. Henri Murison, director of the NPP, told the Liverpool Business News website: “Unnecessarily delaying a £1bn (€1.09bn/$1.3bn) mega-project such as this would be a huge mistake. 

“Historic England’s reading of the requirements of the World Heritage Status, which has already served its purpose in establishing Liverpool’s visitor brand, shows that the time may have come when the disadvantages for the city outweigh any residual benefits it brings.

“In reality, the power of such a scheme can prove transformative in unlocking the true economic potential of Liverpool and the North in both the short- and long-term. Projects like this represent a critical example of the role that forward-thinking organisations such as Everton and their wider partners can play in investing in local communities and ‘building back better’ – closing the North/South divide one step at a time.”

Under the amended application entered on Thursday, the most visual of the design improvements is around the West Stand with the introduction of a new stepped plaza and the removal of the multi-storey car park.

The changes aim to return symmetry to the building and will provide River Mersey views for supporters in the West Stand as well as creating a new stepped terrace public space within an area of the World Heritage Site which is currently inaccessible to the local community and visitors alike.

The solar panels originally proposed for the West Quay have been relocated to the stadium roof, freeing up and decluttering the area for non-matchday use and providing parking for some of the club’s disabled supporters.  

The brick façade of the stadium has been simplified to make the tribute to the Archibald Leitch lattice work, that is so synonymous with Everton’s current Goodison Park home, more obvious while the overall height of the stadium has been reduced so that it is defined as a ‘mid-rise’ building in line with Liverpool City Council’s World Heritage Site Supplementary Planning Document. 

Working closely with Liverpool City Council, Historic England as well as other heritage bodies, Everton believes the stadium has been designed to respect and preserve the heritage of the area, while bringing a long-standing semi-derelict dockland site back into productive use.

A water channel would be maintained to the west of the stadium to ensure the visual continuity of the dock system – a key feature of the Outstanding Universal Value of the World Heritage Site – with the historic dock wall on the western side of the channel exposed. The site’s Grade II Listed Hydraulic Tower would be restored to create a visitor attraction, attracting tourists on non-matchdays, and a range of Bramley-Moore Dock’s historic features will be retained and restored within a public realm area.

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 make its determination. Subject to planning approval as well as the finalising of funding, Everton hopes that work could commence on-site early in 2021.

Image: Everton FC