Wednesday 5th April 2006


MorientesThe reds have resubmitted plans for the new stadium, re-igniting the debate that big investment may be heading Liverpool's way.

The plans for a new 60,000-seat stadium in Stanley Park have been resubmitted to the city council for fresh approval, the Daily Post can reveal.

It is the most robust sign in months that the club remains determined to proceed with the project despite mounting doubts about its affordability. And last night the North West Development Agency confirmed it will hand over crucial millions to the scheme as long as the club can raise the necessary private finance.

Costs for Stanley Park have risen from an original £80m five years ago to at least £160m now.

New planning guidelines have forced the club to seek renewed permission after it was originally granted way back in July, 2004.

A number of stipulations have been laid out, including one restricting the stadium to the same crowd capacity as Anfield - 45,000, instead of the 60,000 it wants to seat - until it comes up with an acceptable transport plan to cope with extra fans.

The club will be determined to ensure that happens swiftly because a new stadium would be ultimately pointless if it did not give the club the extra gate power it needs to compete with rivals like Manchester United, whose Old Trafford ground will soon seat 76,000.

The future of the Stanley Park scheme has been in doubt over recent months as costs spiralled and the board struggled to secure the finances.

But last night a Liverpool FC spokesman confirmed: "We remain confident and are very much committed to making sure the new stadium goes ahead."

The club has now signed a formal contract with the council agreeing to put in place infrastructure, such as new roads and parking, around the stadium if it goes ahead.

City planners have cast their eyes over the new application and come up with new conditions - such as the 45,000 limit on capacity - to ensure it meets recent changes in planning laws.

LFC has also been forbidden from starting any building work until it comes up with improved plans for recreation facilities that will be lost because of the development, such as the football pitches at Lower Breck recreation ground.

It is continuing to try to tie up private funding for the scheme, which must be in place by the middle of this month, or it will miss out on around £10m of financial support from Merseyside's Objective 1 programme.

The NWDA, however, last night confirmed that formal approval of its funding towards Stanley Park will be given if the club secures the private sector investment.

Steven Broomhead, chief executive of the NWDA, said: "The NWDA is keen to invest in the regeneration aspects of the new Anfield plan.

"However, alongside public sector funding from the NWDA and the European Regional Development Fund, the scheme also requires a significant private sector contribution for the new stadium to go ahead.

"The agency needs to be certain that this money has been secured before the NWDA can formally approve funding and we look forward to hearing more from the football club on their progress in securing this private sector funding.

"We have a responsibility to ensure that public money is spent on projects that produce long-term economic, social and regeneration benefits and, therefore, any money provided would be earmarked for regeneration projects that benefit the local economy and communities of Anfield and Breckfield.

"The amount provided will be based on independent economic analysis of the project." A number of buildings - from 47 to 71 Anfield Road - would be demolished to pave the way for the stadium, and the club also wants to dismantle the historic bandstand in the park and re-erect it on a new site opposite Everton FC's ground in Walton Lane.

A bowling green pavilion will also be moved to a new site.

Joe Kenny, chairman of Anfield Residents Action Committee, said: "We will be objecting to the plans again at the planning committee and raising a number of new issues. If that fails, then we will take it to the next level, which means taking out an injunction against the council.

"Our lawyers tell us the council has acted against the local and national planning guidelines."

A spokesman for Liverpool City Council said: "Liverpool Football Club has resubmitted its planning application for a new stadium to ensure it meets all the changes in planning law over the last two years."

Milestones on the road to New Anfield

KEY events in New Anfield plan:

June, 2000: Plans for 70,000-seater New Anfield at Stanley Park are revealed.

January, 2001: Speculation mounts that the club has lined up Speke as a possible substitute.

May, 2002: Consultants GVA Grimley say building a new stadium is better than rebuilding Anfield.

October, 2002: Survey of 19,000 residents supports the new ground.

October, 2003: The club submits a planning application for an £80m, 60,000-seater stadium.

July, 2004: Planning permission is given.

August, 2004: John Prescott agrees not to call in the plan.

January, 2005: Talks over Liverpool and Everton sharing a new stadium end in failure.

February, 2005: Liverpool waits for decision on £23m funding from Northwest Development Agency.

March, 2005: The NWDA says it still wants clubs to ground-share and the cost of the stadium is estimated to be rising at £750,000 a month, now standing at £120m.

June, 2005: The NWDA revealed it will not put money into the stadium but will consider funding the regeneration work around the stadium in Anfield.

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