A saga which began in June 2000, with plans to construct a new stadium in Stanley Park, has begun to show signs of concluding, as Liverpool City Council have revealed a detailed scheme designed to regenerate the Anfield area, with a newly refurbished 60,000-seater stadium as the hub. Under the new plans, up to 700 homes would be built or refubished, together with a new business centre, a 100-bed hotel, a village square or plaza and a new pedestrian walkway leading up to the stadium through Stanley Park.
In order for work to begin in earnest, up to 300 houses will have to be demolished, with plans afoot to refurbish 500 homes and add over 250 new homes to the existing Parks housing estate development. The timescale envisioned for this huge development is five years and it will represent the largest regeneration project Liverpool has seen since billions of pounds were invested in the city's Liverpool Waters development.
Joe Anderson, Mayor of Liverpool, has been centrally involved in the process thus far, engaging in talks with FSG, residents' groups and the housing authorities. He insisted that local residents had been "let down badly" over the years by both the club and local government. Housing renovation and improved infrastructure will see the area boosted significantly and the intention is to create up to 700 jobs. Anderson spoke of a wide-ranging plan for the future of the area.
"We've been thinking that you can't just have house building and refurbishment on their own," said the Mayor. There can't be any regeneration without regenerating the wider community. That's why we've established this partnership with Your Housing and the club [LFC], and it was absolutely essential that we did that. Despite the government pulling the Housing Market Renewal money, we are making progress anyway, with political determination and vision."
Away from the heady world of local politics and the potentially nasty concluding stages of this process, where eight residents remain anxious for court proceedings and compulsory purchase orders may be required, there is the narrower perspective of the future of Liverpool Football Club. The planned expansion of the ground's capacity from the current 45,276 to 60,000 will be absolutely crucial to the club's viability. Ticket sales may not be the biggest revenue stream for the club but a full Anfield stadium and a larger focal point for the club's global fan base to gather will be essential if Liverpool is going to compete at the very summit of the domestic and European game, once more.
Liverpool's Mayor was at pains to insist that there would be no false promises from club officials or politicians and Ian Ayre, Liverpool's managing director was very much on-message, producing his usual non-committal vision of the future.
"The unveiling of this vision for the wider regeneration of the Anfield area is another important step towards transforming the area for the better," claimed Ayre. "This is also an important milestone as we seek to investigate the feasibility of expanding our stadium. We will continue this work, which is just one part of the wider Anfield vision, however, and there is a great deal of work still to be done to bring those plans to fruition. Any expansion is also subject to the club being able to navigate the planning landscape and we are pleased to say that very positive progress is being made."
Well, that's cleared that up then, Ian. Like most of you reading this, I am enthused by the idea of a gentrification of the L4 area and a boost to the local community. Match day experience would certainly be enhanced and a thriving local community with its attendant economic benefits can only be good for a city I have come to love dearly. However, it would be disingenuous to pretend that I am not most concerned with the well-being and future success of Liverpool Football Club. To that end, I look forward to the day when our managing director is not couching his cagey future predictions in cautious language.