English Premier League football club Everton has been hit with fresh delays to its new stadium project, with Liverpool City Council now set to decide on the planning application next year.

Everton was said to have been hoping for a decision from the Council’s planning department on its full application to build the new 52,888-capacity stadium at some point this month. However, a Council spokesperson told the Building website that a meeting on the application had been pushed back to “some time in the New Year”. The spokesperson added: “With the volume of paperwork (the decision) was never going to happen this year.”

The spokesperson also cited COVID-19 for the delay, due to Council staff having to work from home because of pandemic restrictions in Liverpool. The Council has also been rocked by this month’s arrest of Mayor Joe Anderson, as part of a long-running investigation into building and development contracts in the city.

Anderson, who has stepped aside from his role, was one of five men arrested in connection with Merseyside Police’s Operation Aloft at the beginning of December. The investigation has been launched in response to allegations connected to Liverpool Council’s business activity and the city’s development activities. Everton’s stadium project is not connected to this probe.

In September, business group Northern Powerhouse Partnership (NPP) hit out at criticism from heritage bodies of Everton’s new stadium plan, stating “unnecessarily delaying” the project would be a “huge mistake”.

Everton earlier formally submitted to Liverpool City Council an amendment to its planning application for the 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.

Under the amended application, 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. 

Due to the size of the application, Everton had conceded that the 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 had hoped that work could commence on-site early in 2021.

Image: Everton