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Alarm bells sounding for Everton

Everton
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Rewind to Boxing Day 1963

Barclays Premier League
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By ESPN Staff

Everton seethe at £10m planning rejection

Everton have launched an angry attack on Liverpool City Council after losing a planning appeal that will cost the club £10million.

The Merseyside club had hoped to sell their former Bellefield training ground in West Derby for housing, with the cash going towards their £78million contribution for the proposed new stadium in Kirkby.

The club insist that teh stadium development - a joint venture with Tesco - will not be affected by the Bellefield site blow with a club spokesman saying: ''We can find that money from other sources.''

A separate planning inquiry is currently under way to decide whether the club's new stadium project in Kirkby can go ahead, and it is expected to last another three weeks.

But the Bellefield rejection has only reignited the row between Everton and the council over their proposed move outside the city to Kirkby.

Liverpool Council do not want to see the club move outside the city boundaries, but lengthy debate over potential new sites inside the city have failed to produce a solution, and Everton have now opted to move to Kirkby.

Everton insist the cash from the sale of Bellefield was not an integral part of the Kirkby scheme, but the loss of £10million will certainly not help the Goodison Park outfit.

Everton feel the decision is political, and acting chief executive Robert Elstone said on Wednesday: ''The truly disappointing aspect of this is that the politicians who run this city went against the recommendations of the Council's own planning experts.

''In such circumstances you have to ask, why is that? What is the point in employing experienced and learned experts if you are simply going to ignore their advice?

''Over the past few years we have constantly shown a willingness to work with Liverpool City Council to safeguard the long-term future of our football club...sadly, it does not appear to be a reciprocal arrangement.

''The council's own director of planning threw his weight behind this project - he believed it to be both sensible and suitable - and so did we.''

Everton wanted to sell their old training ground and build 74 houses on the site, despite objections from local residents.

Despite planning department approval, that scheme was rejected by Liverpool council's planning committee last year.

Now the result of the appeal has seen Everton's plans rejected by government planning inspector Karen Ridge, on ''the principle of residential development on the site''.

Everton moved to their new Finch Farm training complex in Halewood last year.

The fact that the inspector has vetoed the plans because they were a residential development leaves Everton facing a serious problem.

They still have a revised plan for the site - with less houses - lodged with Liverpool Council. But following this current refusal, there seems little point in continuing with the revised application and it is now expected to be withdrawn.

A club spokesman added: ''We will have to find another use for the land.''

Everton may sit tight for a couple of years to see whether the demand for housing increases after the current credit crunch, or they could look to develop Bellefield in a different way.

But anything other than housing is unlikely to raise a significant amount of money.

Liverpool Council leader Warren Bradley has called for talks with the club on all the issues. He said: ''The planning committee made the decision to refuse the application. And that has been vindicated by the inspector.''

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