It will not have escaped many Blues attention that the documents containing and supporting the planning application by Everton Stadium Development Limited are now loaded on Liverpool City Council’s “planning explorer”. Whilst some will have read every page, here’s a summary of what I believe are the key points.
The full list of documents can be found here
Why choose Bramley-Moore?
It is a vital part of the planning application to understand the reasons for choosing Bramley-Moore. Why is it so important?
Because of the scale of the development, the heritage status of Bramley-Moore Dock and the resulting tests of the proposed development versus national planning policy, it was critical that the club, Liverpool City Council and Historic England understood the lack of alternate sites available and the reasons for their unsuitability.
The proposed degree of “harm” to the Stanley Dock Conservation Area and Grade II listed Bramley-Moore Dock walls is such that the case for Bramley-Moore has to be exceptional and prove the absence of any other suitable or available site. The catchment area includes the areas of (i) North Liverpool (preferred), (ii) extended North Liverpool including the city centre and South Sefton, and (iii) a “wider area of search” including South Liverpool and South Sefton.
None of the 50 identifiable alternative sites meet all the criteria required. The criteria includes Suitable Size, Site Specific Planning Issues, Availability, Viability, Accessibility and Visual / Environmental Impact.
Interestingly, to support the case for Bramley-Moore, Everton cite case law precedence in relation to Oldham Athletic (1997 – highlighting the importance of the traditional catchment area to a club) and Brighton & Hove Albion (2017 – the most relevant in terms of relocating to Bramley-Moore).
3 design studies
The journey to Bramley-Moore (ignoring the previous failed and well documented potential moves) pre-dates Moshiri’s involvement with Everton, starting way back in January 2015 when Meis Architects were provided with an initial design brief. Although the design brief contained no reference to budget or indeed location it focused on six themes: football, atmosphere, sustainability, community, design and hospitality. Additionally, wherever the stadium was to be located, it would have the North stand as the home end (as does Goodison)
In the Spring of 2017, with the support of Liverpool City Council, Bramley-Moore was identified as a potential site for the athletics venue for the 2022 Commonwealth Games bid. As a result, Everton commissioned a feasibility study for phasing a stadium construction that could accommodate an athletics mode for the games. The stadium, build on an east to west orientation, would have held 40,000 spectators in athletics mode and finally 60,000 as a completed football stadium.
The Commonwealth Games bid failed with Birmingham (who were favourites from day one) awarded the games in December 2017.
Thus, in February 2018 a third design brief was created and released. This included the eleven “stadium principles” . Following from this were the incredibly popular Dan Meis workshops at St Luke’s in April 2018. Much discussion ensued particularly around the topics of capacity, match day experience, and the atmosphere within the ground.
Consultations continued with the relevant heritage organisations (including Historic England) leading to the first of two large scale public consultations, first in November 2018 and the second in July/August 2019.
As a result of the public consultations (which received 63,000 responses) final plans for a 52,000 seat capacity stadium with a north/south orientation at Bramley-Moore were drawn up and submitted to Liverpool City Council on 24th December 2019.
52,888 capacity stadium
Regular readers will know I have long argued for a higher capacity with a significant number of premium seats in order to generate maximum levels of income for the club whilst reducing as far as possible, the inevitable ticket price increases for season ticket holders and “walk up” spectators.
The proposed 52,888 capacity comprises of the following:
|Standard home seats||
|Non revenue seats||
Although not referred to in the planning application the club has on a number of occasions referenced the potential for a future increase in capacity. Stadium development director Colin Chong has been quoted “in the long term, we will be able to increase the capacity should there be a demand and requirement to do so.”
How and when that increase arises is still undetermined. The club has said there is the potential to increase the capacity of the east and west stands in the future.
Others have pointed to the potential for safe standing (rail seating) to increase capacity in the future. The club plans to make the lower tiers of the South (home), North stands and the away section “future proofed”. This means that a change in legislation permitting safe standing would allow the club to install rail seating in these areas. A leaked document in November 2018 suggested this would total 10,710 seats.
Whilst the dimensions of these seating areas would permit (under The Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds) higher densities (again subject to legislation) and therefore a higher capacity, the planning application appears to rule this out:
My final comment on capacity points to a table within the planning application, highlighting the increased capacities of the most recently built or significantly increased stadia (and potentially planned):
Timetable and planned programme sequence
One of the most interesting documents in the planning application is the “construction management plan” provided by the preferred contractors Laing O’Rourke.
The club has indicated a target date of September 2023 for the stadium opening. Not only is this dependent upon no extension of the build timetable, but critically (i) the granting of planning approval in the summer and (ii) the completion of the stadium financing within that time frame.
The construction management plan suggests a three year build period (below). Compliance with the time table requires “optimal” conditions.
To save time and due to the “extremely constricted working zones behind them”, the construction work on the North and South stands will begin at the same time as the main dock filling works. The dock, having been scraped clean and then lined, will be filled with nearly half a million cubic metres of sand dredged from a site some 23 nautical miles from Bramley-Moore. From a heritage perspective, the listed dock walls will remain intact and should the stadium ever cease to remain at Bramley-Moore the dock could be returned to its former condition.
Heritage forms a very significant part of the planning application. It is extremely clear that this most sensitive of subjects has received a great deal of attention from the club, Dan Meis and the many consulting and advisory firms involved in the application.
The Heritage statement is perhaps the most informative documents within the whole application. Heritage is interwoven into the planning application at many levels; at the city level, our World Heritage Status as a Maritime Mercantile City maintaining the OUV (outstanding universal value) in terms of innovative technologies and dock construction from the 18th to the early 20th century; at site level in terms of the grade II listed retaining dock walls on both Bramley-Moore & Nelson docks, the hydraulic tower, various pieces of historic dock “furniture” and the dock wall running along Regent Road, and in terms of the external design of the stadium – mirroring the local brick warehouse architecture combined with an ultra-modern roof design.
In addition to the above, the opening of a long closed to the public, section of historic dockland, accessible throughout the year not just match days, with much of it’s original heritage assets maintained, is a critical example of enhancing the heritage value of the location.
Furthermore, the heritage value of football itself, and Everton in particular, as we seek to build our third purpose build football arena in the city, cannot be over-looked. The city’s sporting heritage, and Everton’s role in that, is no less important than our maritime mercantile status, nor our city’s contribution to the arts and music globally.
The combination of the historic riverside location, the heritage assets contained within, the enhanced access plus the footballing heritage of the city’s senior club is a compelling and unique proposition that completely enhances the heritage value of the development.
Match day transportation
The ability to move large numbers of people quickly, safely and efficiently is obviously a key consideration in the planning process. The strategy paper states the following objectives:
Parking – the stadium will hold a total of 481 parking spaces of which 70 will be accessible for disabled supporters. Movement in and out of the two car parks will be restricted before and after the game to enhance pedestrian safety. There will be 152 cycling spaces (potentially rising to 212).
The transportation plan lean heavily on existing infra-structure. The main points are
- Hard and soft road closures around Bramley-Moore on match days
- Local parking restrictions to encourage supporters to use Liverpool City Centre and Bootle parking facilities
- Match day shuttle buses to Liverpool City Centre and Bootle Town Centre
- Existing commercial bus routes
- Train travel – the use of Sandhills Station with crowd control measures (corralling) post match
- Match day taxi ranks
- Coach parking
There is a great emphasis on walking times to the transport hubs and parking facilities within the city centre. It is claimed all within 40 minutes walk of Bramley-Moore. How feasible or desirable this is for the senior supporters, those with disabilities and even those with young children remains to be seen. Having read initial thoughts on many supporter fora and social media, getting to and away from Bramley-Moore does appear to be a significant concern for many.
What is next?
Residents, local businesses, stakeholders and the general public have the opportunity to give Liverpool City Council their views on the proposals as the Council’s formal consultation on the planning application began on February 21st and ends Friday 20 March.
Comments on the application need to be made in writing by 20 March 2020 quoting the application reference number 20F/0001. Comments should be e-mailed to the dedicated council application email address firstname.lastname@example.org.
A hard copy of the application has also been deposited at Central Library, William Brown Street, (1st Floor Reference Section) and is available to view during normal library opening times – no appointment required.
Comments can also be sent by post to The Planning Department, Liverpool City Council, 4th Floor, Cunard Building, Water Street, Liverpool, L3 1AH, quoting the application reference number 20F/0001.