Political reporter Marc Waddington on the road ahead for Liverpool FC and Anfield
WHEN Liverpool Football Club first suggested the need for a bigger, better ground no-one could have envisaged that it would lead to 12 years of limbo.
So when the announcement was made this week that the club had abandoned the Stanley Park super stadium plan and would prefer to stay and extend its current ground the news should have put an end to more than a decade of uncertainty. In reality the uncertainty is far from over.
There could be several obstacles to overcome and a range of legal and technical hoops to jump through – particularly if the demolition of any houses is required, with Lothair, Sybil and Alroy roads under threat.
If the club plans to expand its footprint then the process could still be drawn out especially if Compulsory Purchase Orders are necessary.
As the main housing partner, Your Housing, will pump in millions to improve properties in the area. It is intended to renovate scores of properties in four specific areas.
Some terraced streets will be split and reshaped, some properties demolished and many others refurbished to “good as new” standards.
Some residents in the areas affected will be proposed for relocation to newly-upgraded properties nearby.
One advantage for the club is that over the years it has acquired more than a dozen properties in Lothair Road, which is immediately behind the ground.
But the club’s advantage has been to the disadvantage of the few remaining residents who own their properties.
The indecision over the future of the stadium and the dereliction of the homes owned by the club made the street a target for arsonists.
The fires caused smoke damage to some of the remaining houses with owners fearing a cut in their value.
At a press conference this week LFC managing director Ian Ayre was moved to “apologise for anything people are aggrieved about” for the first time.
But what is still aggrieving some with a major stake in the decision the club has made is the lack of detail.
Residents remain unsure quite what this week’s announcement means.
So, it appears, do some at the council. One source told The Post: “The issue is what option the club chooses. We don’t know that yet. There may be some options that don’t require any compulsory purchases at all.
“As the club said, there are a number of different solutions, but we don’t know what they are yet.”
Fans from LFC supporters union Spirit of Shankly are similarly keen to see progress.
Committee member Peter Hooton said: “If you look at the ground and the money generated from it, it’s like an oasis in a desert. The juxtaposition of wealth and poverty is staring you in the face. I think this has been driven politically and that’s what it needed, some political initiative.”
For the residents of the Rockfield area the fact that they were not told of the announcement to remain at Anfield was not the ideal start.
John Nolan, chair of the Rockfield Residents Association, said: “Roads like Alroy Road and Sybil Road have not been mentioned in connection with this before so there’s a lot needs to be clarified before residents are going to really feel they know what’s going to happen one way or the other.”
Other residents whose homes could be affected by any extension said they had been personally affected by years of uncertainty.
Russell Start, who lives in Venmore Street, is convinced that if the stadium is extended it will require the diverting of Lower Breck Road.
He added: “It’s seemed for a while that there’s been a rush to get these houses in our street down because I think they’d be key if the club was to stay where it is. It’s been like the council was trying to force the club’s hand.”
While the details will be thrashed out behind closed doors until next spring – when a planning application is due to go in – residents and fans will have to wait to see exactly what the future holds for Anfield.
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