ANFIELD STADIUM: Expansion approved despite concern over trees
Liverpool’s Anfield stadium will be expanded again after councillors approved plans to extend the ground’s Anfield Road Stand.
Under plans approved by Liverpool City Council on Tuesday morning (June 15), the club will add 7,000 seats by extending the stand north across Anfield Road and towards the edge of Stanley Park.
Several councillors raised concerns at the meeting about the loss of 27 trees in the area, with one accusing the club of putting up “smoke and mirrors” around the tree issue and another urged the council not to “sacrifice” the trees to a “profit-making machine”.
But representatives of the club said the trees would be replaced and council officers had agreed to the number of trees to be felled.
The proposals follow the expansion of Anfield’s Main Stand in 2016 and would be done in a similar style, bringing the stadium’s total capacity to 61,000. There would also be a covered “fan zone” within the stadium along with hospitality suites and other facilities.
Outside the stadium will be a renewed “public realm” similar to 96 Avenue outside the Main Stand, with Anfield Road itself re-routed around the back of the new stand.
Plans also include permission to host up to six “major events” such as concerts per year for a period of five years.
Andy Hughes, the club’s chief operating officer, told the committee that public consultations had seen “overwhelming” support for the plans, with 98% of respondents in favour and 84% of people living in the L4 postcode.
But the issue of trees proved to be the main sticking point in the debate, with climate change committee chair Lena Simic accusing the club of “misleading” the public by not revealing the number of trees to be felled until late in the day.
She said: “Why are we allowing our beloved historic public park to be changed to allow the expansion of a profit-driven private corporation?
“Do we really want to sacrifice the mature, beautiful trees we have in Stanley Park to this profit-making machine?”
Cllr Dave Cummings raised similar objections, urging the club to “go back to the local people and negotiate with them to see if they are happy with the tree issue”.
He added: “I’m not going to support this planning application if you do not engage with the public.
“What I’m feeling here is a massive amount of smoke and mirrors and ambiguity.”
Both club representatives and planning officers said the loss of the 27 trees had been the result of negotiations between the club and the council that had only been completed recently.
The club has also agreed to plant 25 new trees on its own land and provide the council with enough money to pay for 45 new trees to be planted in Stanley Park.
Concerns were also raised regarding the impact of the expansion on traffic on match day, but both the club and council transport officer Andy Dingwall said the proposals would actually reduce the amount of parking available and thus act as a “deterrent” to people driving to matches.
Councillors approved the club’s plans by a 6-2 vote, with Green councillor Anna Key and Labour councillor Dave Cummings voting against.
The development is expected to take around 18 months, with the external structure being built during the season and internal works taking place next summer.
Words: Chris McKeon, Local Democracy Reporter
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