Residents have been left outraged over proposals by Everton FC to build a new stadium in Walton Hall Park, as they expressed their objections at a public meeting last night.
The gathering at the Lifestyles sports centre in Walton, which was attended by hundreds as well as senior club executives and city council officials, allowed locals to voice their opinions about the possibility of a football ground being built as part of a regeneration project for the surrounding area.
Although the details of the park takeover have not yet been finalised, many of those living in the streets surrounding the green land were livid over the potential development plans by Everton, who are seeking a new venue to replace Goodison Park, the Toffees’ home since 1892.
Hayley Stanton, who has a house in nearby Manorbrier Crescent, told JMU Journalism: “I used to live in Andrew Street, which is right next to Goodison Park. I saved up my whole life savings and even sold my car to move away from Everton’s stadium because of the trouble around there.
“Now they are planning to build this stadium outside my house again. If I wanted a stadium next to my house, I wouldn’t have moved.”
Walton Hall Park spans 130 acres of land, including fishing ponds, amateur football pitches, a community centre and play area, and some questioned how much of the park would be left if Everton’s plans for a new modern facility get off the ground.
Rachael Sweeny, a regular user of the park, told JMU Journalism: “I’ve heard all different amounts about how much of the park they would take. Someone said that 40% would still be ours but it’s not right that they can take 60% off us.
“My husband fishes there every day and I take the grandkids around on the weekend. If there was a stadium here, there would be litter and trampled-on grass – there wouldn’t be a park.”
Everton are keen to underline that no firm proposals have been laid out for the scheme, though they joined council representatives in stressing the potential benefits for the area if it went ahead, including the possibility of 1,000 additional jobs, plus a further 1,250 posts during construction.
Club Chief Executive Robert Elstone told JMU Journalism: “It has been clear tonight that there is some nervousness about what might happen in Walton Hall Park and we understand that any potential changes will create that kind of concern.
“Local people want to know what could be happening and, although we don’t have all the answers, we thought it was important to come and share what we do know and, more importantly, to listen at this early stage.”
Richard Kenyon, Director of Marketing and Communications for Everton FC, told JMU Journalism: “The reason for doing this event tonight was to listen to what people have to say. We need to get a feel for what the local people think and what they may or may not want from any possible scheme.
“The people who were invited tonight were the people who live immediately around the park – it was important that we listened to their views first.”
Further arrangements for future discussions are likely, and local councillors made promises throughout the meeting, assuring everyone that their views will be taken seriously during all the stages of potential redevelopment.
Ann O’Byrne, Assistant Mayor of Liverpool City Council, pledged to JMU Journalism: “We will listen to everyone. I am a ward councillor for this area and this meeting is about us listening to our residents.
“If people are worried about house prices or traffic, then that is what we will take into consideration. There is potential here to improve the park and as ward councillor I’ll make sure that happens.”