Public inquiry into EFC/Tesco stadium plans gets underway

Michael Hunt

A public inquiry into the Everton FC/Tesco £400m project is starting today, with fans of the club and residents in Kirkby eager to hear details about how the club and superstore chain will fund the scheme.

Communities Secretary Hazel Blears announced in August a public inquiry would be called into the proposed 55,000-seat stadium and 500,000 sq ft of retail, hotels and leisure.

A statement released by Tesco at the time said: "We are obviously very disappointed with the decision to call-in the proposals for Kirkby. This project would regenerate the town centre, create over 2,000 new jobs in the region and deliver world class facilities for Everton. In times of growing economic uncertainty, the case for this regeneration project has never been so clear and it is viable only because it is a single comprehensive development combining the stadium, retail and leisure."

Knowsley council granted planning permission in June for the controversial scheme. However, rival councils including Liverpool objected, saying it was too large and too close to other retail hubs.

Cash-strapped Everton will need all of Tesco's backing, fuelled by lifelong Everton chief executive Sir Terry Leahy, to make sure the project remains alive.

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