Everton’s proposed £500million new stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock has moved a significant step closer to becoming reality, with a Liverpool City Council planning report recommending approval of the project.
A near 200-page report on Everton’s plans for a 52,888-capacity stadium within the city’s historic docks, a World Heritage Site, called the application a “significant event in the history of the city” and “a major decision for the local planning authority”.
The report found that Everton’s proposals “have broad popular support overall” and that the “substantial public benefits far outweigh any heritage harm”.
The plans will now be considered at a special planning committee meeting on February 23 and, if approved, will then be automatically referred to central government for a final decision.
If all goes well, the club hope to be on site no later than this summer to begin construction, which is expected to take three years, meaning the Toffees could realistically be in their new home in time for the 2024-25 season.
The central issue in considering the plans has been the location of the site – which the club said was the only viable option out of 52 considered.
Though the stadium has gained wide public support, objections have been raised by heritage body ICOMOS, acting on behalf of UNESCO, as well as the Victorian Society and Historic England – with the latter having had input on the design.
But the report concludes that the plans – which integrate a number of historic features – could actually deliver ‘heritage benefits’ as well as harm by “enhancing degraded on-site heritage assets, improving access to the World Heritage Site and unlocking access to the history”.
A major public consultation in which more than 63,000 people took part found strong support for the project, with approval rates of 80 per cent or above in every demographic – including Liverpool fans who backed it at a rate of 86 per cent.
The club have argued that the project can play a key role in Liverpool’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, with the stadium and a multi-purpose redevelopment of Goodison Park generating a £1.3billion boost to the local economy.
In addition to matches and the regular use of conference and exhibition spaces within the stadium, the planning application would allow Everton to host up to four major events such as concerts or other sporting events each year.
If Liverpool City Council give the project the nod, plans will be referred to Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, who will have 21 days to make a final decision.
The club would then finalise funding and a building schedule, with the estimate of 150 weeks of work taking into account the impact of current restrictions due to the pandemic.