Destination Kirkby Rejected

The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the Parochial Church Council.

Kirkby Valley HIlls in full flower
Kirkby Valley HIlls in full flower

The right decision

The announcement yesterday by the Secretary of State finally over-turning planning permission given by Knowsley Borough Council for a monster sized shopping development and football stadium puts an end to three years of worry for Kirkby residents. Those living near to the site in particular have had their homes blighted, felt trapped, concerned about the loss of peace and quiet in their own houses, increased anti-social behaviour nearby, community safety, health, car-parking, litter, traffic, loss of amenity. After all, a football stadium with capacity greater than the population of the town and a supermarket requiring eight times the number of shoppers each week than the 40,000 who currently live in Kirkby was going to have a big impact.

But the rejection of these plans has not been met by the popping of champagne corks. Those of us who have opposed the development know the town needs regeneration. We remain frustrated that three years have now been wasted on a plan that lacked common sense and community backing.

The Secretary of State has not rejected these proposals just because opponents shouted loudly. If he was to go with those who shouted most loudly he would surely have sided with Everton FC, Tesco and KMBC. The Secretary of State has rejected those proposals because the harm the development would bring was likely to be greater than the benefit:

“the proposal would be likely to have a harmful effect on the vitality and viability of Kirkby, Bootle, Skelmersdale and St Helens. Other factors weighing against the proposal include that the physical regeneration of the old town centre is uncertain, and the stadium would result in harmful impact on many of the town’s residents.” (Paragraph 28 of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government letter, 26th November 2009.)

Impact

The proponents of this development originally claimed that it would bring 2,200 jobs to Kirkby. In the last couple of days they have been saying in the press that 7,000 jobs have been lost. I am not too sure why their original figure has now been multiplied by three. In fact, in the planning inquiry under cross-examination, the developers’ consultants admitted that the net gain in full-time-equivalent jobs for Kirkby would be 132 if all went well. This is partly because other existing jobs would be displaced by the new development. This helps us understand the balancing act that the Secretary of State needed to manage: benefit against disbenefits. Nobody is saying that 132 is not a benefit, but 7,000 jobs is simply not the truth. And 132 jobs need to be weighed against the harm. I have said in other places that these plans were about degeneration, not regeneration.

The artist's impression Destination Kirkby developers didn't want you to see (courtesy of KEIOC)
The artist's impression Destination Kirkby developers didn't want you to see (courtesy of KEIOC). The stadium is in the background but you can still see it sitting on top of a wall as high as neighbouring houses. Imagine if the stadium was in the foreground of the picture.

One of the big impacts of this development that was made clear to those of us who sat through the Public Inquiry but that little has been said of in the press is the sheer mass of the stadium. The Valley Hills were going to be levelled to the height of the land behind and up to a concrete wall running along Valley Road. At its highest point this wall would be thirty-two feet high with a three-foot fence on top of that. The stadium’s secure car park would be on top of that. The playing surface was to be above that level and the stands above that. If you can imagine even a thirty-five foot wall and fence along valley road, let alone a huge stadium on top it you will get a picture of how this development would have changed the face of the town. Then remember that some houses in the Grange Estate would have been dwarfed underneath the eaves of this.

Of course, there are other residents who have been settled in their houses behind Cherryfield Drive who were going to have their homes taken off them under a Compulsory Purchase Order. This development took little account of the pride and aspirations of Kirkby residents for their town.

For these reasons I have stood alongside others to make a clear and cogent case for the Government to consider. I am proud of friends and colleagues who have given such a good demonstration of local people’s insights and abilities and have proven the foolishness of what big business was planning to do here.

But the work has not finished. It may only just have begun. Now we need to convince local government officers and members to work with Kirkby residents and plan for regeneration that brings only benefits to the town and no harm.

Revd Dr Tim Stratford (Team Rector of Kirkby).

5 thoughts on “Destination Kirkby Rejected”

  1. The right decision? For who? It doesn’t matter if the scheme created 7,000 jobs or just 1 job, the town of Kirkby needs investment to regenerate the area, and without big projects like the combined Everton Stadium and Tesco scheme its not going to be pull itself of the hole that it has been in since the early 1970s when all the big companies that existed on the Industrial Estate starting pulling out. At the moment, the town of Kirkby is simply not a credible place to live, work or spend any leisure time, especially with the lack of adequate retail facilities. There is an exodus of people at the weekend driving out of Kirkby every weekend going to the likes of St Helens, Maghull and Aintree. There were also the other potential benefits that could have fallen out of the project – a revival of the tram project that would give Kirkby access to a modern, fast and clean mode transport network. I really think the Governments decision is a real shame for the people of Kirkby and for the towns future, but what’s been said cannot now be undone. There is unlikely ever going to be the potential for a similar project like this, instead the town will continue to be at the mercy of the likes of Sonae polluting the environment, and continuing to ruin peoples lives with the filth that is pumped out of those factories.

  2. I am personally not as negative about life in Kirkby as Tom Bradbury. I have found this a good place to live. I think we need to stop talking Kirkby down, have a little confidence, and work to bring about some improvements that will not harm the residential character of this town in the way that Destination Kirkby would.

  3. Well I am overjoyed at the fact Destination Kirkby was rejected. Living close to the proposed site would have been a nightmare. I moved to Kirkby 5 years ago because I like the big open space around my new home. I have loved living here and would love to see the existing town centre, with the small business shops being regenerated just like Huyton has been. The residents of Kirkby have had this hanging over our heads for years now and I for one am so glad that Everton and Tesco will not be buiding on our green open spaces. Well done to everyone who helped and a big Thank you.

  4. I am a little confused with the decision of the secretary of communities, he makes it quite clear that his decision was mainly due to the protest of the outlining boroughs regarding the size and the effect it would have on their communities, which prompted every Thom,Dick & Harry to jumping on the band waggon and slaging off groups such as KRAG for not getting this regeneration for Kirkby. Well i for one would like to put the record straight.Me being a minor member of KRAG,But had the courage and passion to speak against the project I would like to say to my councillors for old hall est, the elected leader that used my rate money to fund all the consultations and my Elected M.P. who because he never got his own way for the first time, is threating not to give our elected goverment his vote when needed ( Gorden Brown must be shaking in his boots ), where were you all when the Inquiry was going on , not one of you spoke, but you all are crawling out of the wood work and appearing in the Liverpool Echo saying it is very disapointing decision. I would like to quote a lady in the Liverpool Echo live letters when she said “why are people from kirkby complaining about Tesco when no one in Huyton complained about Asda in huyton” SIMPLE people from kirkby have KRAG, I will have to go now because i am still celebrating and I am just having the last glass of wine that i bought out of Somerfield in the Towny

  5. I am thrilled that the ‘Destination Kirkby’ debacle has finally been put to rest. I have lived and worked in Kirkby all my life and although there are problems, our community is not as bleak as it has been painted in the media. I am frankly angry at the patronising and pompous language that has been bandied about by people who profess to care about Kirkby. I know our town is in need of regeneration but not at any price. To those officials who still try to argue the merits of the scheme I say this, would be so outspoken with your support if you had a property on the Grange estate? I think not. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank KRAG and particularly Reverend Tim Sheppard for their unstinting loyalty and support for the people of Kirkby.

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