Liverpool

Walton Hall Park Development

Liverpool City Council is fully behind - indeed part of - the development group proposing to develop on a centuries old park in Walton, north Liverpool. The proposed development of Walton Hall Park raises so many questions it is difficult to know where to start, I've put a few comments and questions below though, which may be useful as a starting point if you are interested in a) the development and b) the workings of our council.

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Photos: A.J. Walker 2015 more on Flickr

There is not much information available to the general public yet, although the local authority appear to be very bullish about proceeding with its development. So, what is proposed?

  • A 50,000 seat stadium for Everton Football Club
  • 1000 new 'aspirational' homes - whatever that means
  • retail development
  • potentially a school and medical centre.

We have not been provided plans for how this would work yet, although this week (w/e 16 Jan 2015) a Labour councillor told the local radio station that a planning application should be ready to go in by the summer of 2015. There is some thought that this was to take the news away from the coverage of the fun run which was undertaken last weekend at Walton Hall Park, which was getting some local news coverage. Whatever the reason it seems unwise to be spouting such a statement without backing this up. Planning in the summer? What for? Presumably some sort of outline application for part of the development. Perhaps just a foot in the door.

The council and all the councillors have been reticent in actually talking about the development to interested parties (that would be the people of the city they purport to represent) other than saying it is a positive thing for the area.

Positive?
A large public park owned by the people of Liverpool is to be taken away from the city for housing and a private company (in this case including Everton). The removal of green space and natural habitats to be replaced with housing, retail and a football stadium - that's got to be positive yes?
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Available Reports?
Tantalisingly there seems to be little. The council (
our council) paid for a report from a London company called Volterra Partners to prove that the development of a historic park would be positive to the people of north Liverpool. The report (link here) is a bit of an oddity for one focussed on the issues with developing a large green space there is next to nothing said about the environment - and seems preoccupied with crime and depravation. I'm sure it was an independent report - i.e. not written in committee with LCC, but the lack of comment on the potential negatives to be considered with the development - Environment, Habitats, and god forbid discussing 'Alternatives' is surprising.

There is also nothing in there about Programme, which is significant - the council talking the development up in terms of pushing it through ('planning' in the summer) yet the report does not talk about planning. Such a development in another council area would be sure to require an
EIA under Schedule 2 - guidelines suggest 1000 houses on a green site would trigger an EIA - let alone the additional stadium and associated development. That too is a 'green site' which really relates to green field, rather than a public park.

On the positive side for those against the development of the park if they push to go through without an EIA they are highly likely to be called in - and their incompetence would be there for all to see. There is no evidence - from the lack of reports available out there - that they have considered other sites adequately or at all - this would have to be demonstrated within an EIA.

Website Information?
There is a website with a nice green and blue image at the top marketing the 'new' park, which of course a) includes no plans and b) says it would be better and more used. It doesn't say either how large it will be (it is thought at least half the park will be lost). It's just a placeholder page in reality - with a nice green sounding name '
park life project' - I ask you! Assume 'Destruction of the Park' domain name was taken. As marketing goes I trust they haven't paid anything more than for a domain name and hosting!

On the page there is a link to
Everton FC and their stadium page on the EFC website. Of course there is a) no plans and b) there are two pages showing that you can't sign up for consultation on the stadium (closed last September!?). In fact incredibly there is LESS information on the EFC site than there is on the lovely green park life site.
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I haven't found a site advertising the 1000 houses and additional development. If it exists I would assume it is one page with no information on it - although probably would include a smiling face and a thumbs up.

Planning?
Looking at the Liverpool City Council planning portal there have been no planning applications submitted for any parts of the proposal to date.

The councillor's 'heads up' re planning in the summer is not backed up by any information - but that is a significant part of the problem: the
paucity of information and engagement with the people of Walton and Liverpool. It feels like the development is being steamrollered and the opposition to it has no-one to go to - at the moment we are shouting into the wind.

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Questions?
  • What other reports are available? There must be an Options Appraisal somewhere that came up with the park as the 'best option'
  • Why do LCC think they can ignore and then walk over north Liverpool? (could anyone imagine 1000 houses and a stadium being proposed on Sefton Park! Of course not.)
  • If LCC are one of the partners for the development how will the independence of the planning department and process be assured?
  • When and how will any real consultation be undertaken?
  • What advice have they taken with respect to Environmental Impact Assessment? This will take at least a year - unless studies are already being undertaken. Which begs the question, what studies has LCC or the development group already commissioned e.g. habitat surveys, contamination investigations, geotechnical investigations, traffic assessments etc.
  • I run at the park and know there are bats there, do they roost there or is it just a foraging area?
  • There is another very large housing development one junction up from the park at the former Queen Mary School. Will the assessments include the additional traffic from both developments? - the East Lancs will become a nightmare.
  • How much money has the council spent on investigating the proposals to date for the development of the park?
  • Why are the council paying ANYTHING for a private company (EFC) to develop their (our) land?
  • If Everton was to propose to build elsewhere would the council still propose to build the 1000 houses on the park or are the houses proposed to help fund the stadium? If so WHY!?
  • Lastly, HOW ON EARTH DOES ANY COUNCILLOR, MAYOR OR PLANNER JUSIFY PROPOSING TO BUILD ON A PUBLIC PARK OVER BROWNFIELD SITES (OR EVEN THE EXISTING EVERTON FC SITE - IF JUST TALKING ABOUT THE STADIUM).

I will update this blog as and when any information comes to light. In the meantime if you are a twitter user you can find some information and comments via:

Friends of Walton Hall Park:
@wallyhallpark
Save Liverpool:
@andersonsaxe

You could also follow 'our' mayor Joe Anderson. But don't say anything contentious or ask any questions as you'll probably get blocked.
Ego Joe:
@joeforliverpool

There is the beginning of a website from community fans of the park now too:

http://waltonhallparkcommunity.org/campaign/