What Might Still Happen Going Forward...

Alasdair Jones 23/02/2021 25comments  |  Jump to last

Despite the title, this is not a piece of speculation about results and transfer activity going forward to the end of the season and over the summer. There are many more erudite contributors than myself on this site who comment on such matters. No, and to some, rather boringly, this is about the prospects for our stadium, focusing on the planning process from here on in and the resulting start date for work on site at Bramley-Moore Dock.

Today, the application went before the members of the Planning Committee for them to debate the proposals based on the Planning Officer's Report, which is available to view on the Council's Web Site. The application, reference 20F/0001, is recommended for approval subject to 52 Conditions and a Section 106 Agreement. In parallel to that application, there are two applications for Listed Building Consent in relation to works to the boundary wall along the frontage to Regent Road and the water body and quaysides of Bramley-Moore Dock. There is also an outline application for the redevelopment of Goodison Park which the Planning Officer recommends should be considered alongside these applications.

There was a lot for the members of the committee to digest and it is to be hoped they have been well briefed over the last few weeks otherwise they could ask for more time and defer final determination at this committee. That would then extend the timeline by a further month.


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Assuming the members accept the Planning Officer's recommendation to approve the application, it will then be referred to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities, and Local Government, Robert Jenrick MP.

The Council are obliged to consult with the Secretary of State before they can grant permission because the application has been the subject of an objection by Historic England who refer to the adverse impact of the proposed stadium on the Liverpool Mercantile City World Heritage Site, and the Council propose to approve the application. It is also the case that the Secretary of State's interest is triggered by the fact that the application involves issues of more than local importance. This is a reference in part to the wider socio-economic benefits from the development that extend into the City region.

The Secretary of State has 21 days from the date on which he notifies the City Council that he is in receipt of the application documents, objections to it, and statements in support, the committee papers, officer recommendations, and the Section 106 Agreement. From my experience with this process, the Agreement would need to have been signed off by all relevant parties, who in this instance are Everton Stadium Development Company, Liverpool City Council, Goodison Park Stadium Ltd, and Peel L&P Developments.

For those wondering what the Section 106 Agreement is, it is primarily a series of financial obligations to fund from the development, and off-site measures necessary to mitigate the impact of the development on the wider area. For example, the club will have to fund a shuttle bus service to and from the City Centre on match/event days.

Having satisfied himself he has all that he needs and advised the Council accordingly, the clock starts running on the 21 days. Within this period, any person or interested party can write to the Secretary of State with their views and how the application should be determined. In the event that, at the end of this period, he advises the Council he is satisfied with the reasons for approval and how they have dealt with the application, the permission can then be granted by the Council. If all goes to plan, even allowing for the member defferal referred to earlier, and for the time taken by the Secretary of State and the Council to submit and exchange documents and notifications, it could be that a consent could be granted sometime between mid-May and end of June.

Keep in mind, however, the dreaded words; "I'm from the Government and I'm here to help". Experience tells me that, once an application falls into the hands of the Government, the applicant has lost control over its destiny. I cannot pretend to having reviewed in detail the application and accompanying documents.

>Notwithstanding that, it seems to me that any decision on the proposal will boil down to the balance to be struck between the severe harm to the World Heritage Site and the wider social and economic benefits that derive from the scheme. If Jenrick is bold, and given the political pressures to rebalance the UK economy away from the "over-heated South-East" by promoting new infrastructure schemes in the North, he will allow the council to determine the application as they see fit. The latest unemployment figures could assist in that regard. With that in mind, it is to be hoped that he will, during this period, be the subject of some serious political lobbying in support of the scheme.

Should he find, however, that the competing arguments are too much of a headache, then he will take the coward's way out and kick the issue down the road by calling in the application for his determination by appointing an Inspector and holding a Public Inquiry. All those who lodged objections with the Secretary of State in the 3-week period could make further submissions to such an inquiry and, if they so choose, appear in person.

All this will take time to arrange and conduct, followed by the presentation by the Inspector of his report to the Secretary of State recommending how he should proceed. By the time that happens, will Jenrick still be in post! Assuming he is, I would allow at best 12 months for this process to exhaust itself. I hope with all my heart it doesn't come about but, if it does, then consent may be put back until mid-2022.

Unfortunately it doesn't end there. If the conditions (as presently drafted) survive, be aware some of these are what's known as pre-commencement conditions. They require the applicant to satisfy the Council on certain matters before work on the stadium can commence – such as, for example, a detailed Construction Management Plan to be approved by the Council. So a start on building the stadium could be late 2022 or early 2023.

It's all like being in lockdown. Let's hope not and the Secretary of State does the right thing by us.

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Reader Comments (25)

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John Hoggarth
1 Posted 23/02/2021 at 16:38:05
Thanks for this very useful appraisal Alasdair. I’ve written to the Metro Mayor asking him to confirm he’ll be lobbying the Secretary of State and that he’ll encourage other local MPs to do likewise.

Lord Heseltine might be a useful chap to help in this sort of situation. I think I’ve got his number somewhere... 😂

Pete Williams
2 Posted 23/02/2021 at 17:53:30
Hi Alistair, good article, but the Section 106 does not need to be signed for the Secretary of State to approve the scheme as it can take years for S106 agreements to be finalised. He will have to focus on the heritage impacts and whether benefits out weigh the impacts. There is plenty of wriggle room in Government planning policy for him to decide it's okay and the council's thorough report will help him in that respect.

Given statements from the Government about going for growth and levelling up, I think it'll get approved. If it does go to a Public Inquiry, I think an Inspector will back the scheme. Even if an Inspector dislikes it, the Secretary of State can still approve it, so there are good grounds for optimism. If HS2 can destroy tons of stuff, I don't see the Government protecting a semi-derelict dock!

Michael Kenrick
Editorial Team
3 Posted 23/02/2021 at 17:56:36
This is a good roadmap for what lies ahead, Alasdair. A lot of folks won't like it, seeing it as just more red tape (or Red shenanigans!) but it's great to have someone post a piece that is grounded in the reality of the process and pulls no punches.

Much appreciated.

Brent Stephens
4 Posted 23/02/2021 at 18:08:59
Interesting read, Alastair. Thanks. And Pete's comment noted.
Thomas Richards
5 Posted 23/02/2021 at 18:22:13
Very good post.

It will happen but it wont be quick.

Good points being mentioned about the tory manifesto inclusions pushing the levelling of the gap between north and south.
With that in mind I cant see any future objection.

Graham Mockford
6 Posted 23/02/2021 at 18:42:27
It wouldn't be a great surprise if the application was called in given the fact the development is within the buffer zone of the the World Heritage Site and the objectors carry a fair bit of weight, influence and resources.

I'm sure that, as Pete Williams articulates, the benefits will eventually be seen to outweigh the impact but we should, as the article says, very clearly be prepared for some further delays.

Thomas Richards
7 Posted 23/02/2021 at 18:47:26
What did you think of the liverpool fan councillors speech Graham?
Inspirational imo
Steve Barr
8 Posted 23/02/2021 at 19:01:03
Keeping with the title of the article, but going slightly" off piste" so to speak, have a listen to this You Tube video which in my opinion is very illuminating and gives me great optimism for the future of Everton FC!

Apologies if you have already seen it.


Seems like Rio Ferdinand is a mentor to Holgate, Godfrey and Keane!

Stick with the whole 1 hour 22 minute show, well worth it!

Steve Barr

Graham Mockford
9 Posted 23/02/2021 at 19:12:00
Thomas 7

Haven’t seen it? Have you a link.

My experience of these matters is councillors love to pontificate but if the local planning officer has deemed it to be suitable and within guidelines it’s unusual for councillors to overturn it especially if they don’t want to be racking up legal costs.

I know there is a suspicion councillors would be motivated on the team they support. Don’t know any of the individuals concerned here but I’d be surprised.

Brent Stephens
10 Posted 23/02/2021 at 19:14:55
Graham, post #75 on the Bramley Moore decision thread.
Thomas Richards
11 Posted 23/02/2021 at 19:19:10
My post @76 on The Bramley-Moore Dock thread gives the gist of it, Graham. Full statement available on Liverpool Echo website.

He states he is a Liverpool fan. Some pontification. :-)

Talks straight to the point about the historical connotations of why the dock wall was built. Marvellous to this labour voter.

John Hoggarth
12 Posted 23/02/2021 at 19:42:52
Graham #7...here’s a link. Hope it works


Graham Mockford
13 Posted 23/02/2021 at 19:44:46
Thanks Thomas / Brent

I mean he makes a persuasive emotional argument but I’m guessing it wouldn’t hold much sway from a planning perspective on a heritage basis

‘Gentleman of the planning committee, this place was never intended as a place of historical importance. It was built so we could worship the sun, slaughter a few goats and dress up in our fancy druids capes. I can think of nothing more fitting than a KFC Stonehenge’


John Hoggarth
14 Posted 23/02/2021 at 19:52:10
# Graham 13, I guess his role today was to contribute to the Council planning meeting but in doing so he made the point very well that there has to be a balance between preserving a derelict site with no public access against a regeneration opportunity that opens up the waterfront. I’d hope that would be of interest to Mr Jenrick and any Planning Inspector. The councillor was by no means the first to make the point but, in the context of the planning meeting, it carries weight and was very timely.
Graham Mockford
15 Posted 23/02/2021 at 19:53:41
Taking my tongue out of my cheek.

World Heritage sites are provided with the highest level of national protection by Planning Policy Statement 5. Planning for the Historic Environment, which requires that development that would result in substantial harm to world heritage sites or their setting should be wholly exceptional and only be permitted where substantial public benefit outweighs the harm to the site

The argument solely rests on is there substantial harm, is there substantial public benefit and does one outweigh the other. I’m still confident it will happen but I’m pretty convinced it will get called in.

Graham Mockford
16 Posted 23/02/2021 at 19:56:32

I Completely get that, the point I was making is that the origins of the site are of little weight as to its status as a heritage site from a planning perspective.

Brent Stephens
17 Posted 23/02/2021 at 20:00:42
Graham “only be permitted where substantial public benefit outweighs the harm to the site”.

No coincidence then I guess that the chair of the committee and the Planning Officer among others used almost that exact phraseology of the public benefits outweighing the harm to the site.

Graham Mockford
18 Posted 23/02/2021 at 20:06:26
Of course Brent. These matters are decided based on legal principles. The statement made by the LPA will have been drafted by the lawyers.

I’m sure they know they still have a big hurdle ahead. I’m really not trying to piss on anyone’s chips but World Heritage Sites are a big deal. That’s why I suspect it will get called in.

Arthur Westhead
19 Posted 23/02/2021 at 20:19:38
Steve#8 Thanks for that link. What an interesting discussion. Holgate and Godfrey come accross really well, down to earth lads, with confidence.
One interesting (and surprising) comment was that Gylfi is the hardest working and best pro in training at the club!
Pete Williams
20 Posted 23/02/2021 at 22:12:03
Graham, PPS5 disappeared in 2012 to be replaced by the National Planning Policy Framework or NPPF. That says that allowing significant harm to a heritage asset with the highest status should be wholly exceptional.

It will depend whether the new stadium results in significant harm, which I don't think it does, and whether the benefits from the scheme outweigh the harm it causes.

After all, the dock isn't being destroyed, only covered up, and the accumulator tower is going to be restored. Plus, I think a historic 144-year-old organisation (EFC) deserves a historic home!

Graham Mockford
21 Posted 23/02/2021 at 22:19:31

You are of course correct but the substance is much the same. Harm vs benefit and I think there is definitely a strong case you make. It has after all cleared the initial hurdle today but these are objectors with fairly deep pockets.

Jenrick may well take the risk-averse route and let it run its course by calling it in. It certainly wouldn't surprise me because even if he doesn't it could still well end up in the Supreme Court I assume.

Pete Williams
22 Posted 23/02/2021 at 22:54:50
The courts will only intervene if some legal principle has been contravened. A matter of planning judgement that is based on policy and evidence is not a matter for the courts. Provided the decision letter is properly written, the courts will not intervene.

Political will is probably the most important thing here and I think the economic and community benefits will trump protecting an old dock. If it does go to an inquiry, though, I'm sure the club will employ the best planning brains it can find and they will be persuasive. As I said, reasons to be optimistic, whatever happens next!

Jerome Shields
23 Posted 24/02/2021 at 16:23:49
Thanks, Alasdair, for your thoughts on the process after the past meeting. It sounds more like what could happen, but I don't think that the government will want to stand in the way of a Docklands development, with Gove talking about 'Free Ports' and less red tape as part of the Brexit dividend.
Thomas Richards
24 Posted 24/02/2021 at 16:35:50
It's happening. No way will this be halted. Tories would be shooting themselves in the foot if they knocked it back.

After all the 'red wall, blue wall' spiel about levelling up between North and South, they won't refuse the biggest scheme since the policy was introduced.

Graham Mockford
25 Posted 24/02/2021 at 17:02:41

It quite clearly could be a matter for the courts if the objectors felt they had a case in law. A court would hear it on the basis of such policy and evidence. There are loads of examples of the Supreme Court hearing planning application reviews.

The expansion of Heathrow being a recent example.

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