Stadium news: £9m Regeneration grant approved

Another moment in Liverpool’s march towards their new stadium passed today, with a lot less fuss than many would have expected. Liverpool City Council were awarded the money they had applied for to carry out regeneration projects tied in with the new stadium, meaning that another potential obstacle to the ground being built has been overcome.

To cut a long story short, LFC proved they could afford to build their new stadium, and in return money was released to regenerate the surrounding area.

Liverpool FC haven’t asked for this funding, from the Objective One fund, rather it was asked for by the local council. Their use of the money is to improve and regenerate the area around both the existing and the new stadium, but to get that money the committee looking after the funds wanted to ensure that Liverpool FC could afford to do their bit for the cause. Liverpool’s estimated costs of £180m to build the new ground dwarf the £9m funding assured today, but that money is important for the local area. Without it the new stadium could in theory still be built, but planning conditions would then not have been met, and the improvements to the rest of Stanley Park could not have been carried out.

The fuss was expected by many because it was assumed that Liverpool would have to make a big announcement on investment before this £9m could be released. The deadline of the end-of-the-month was looming and some were trying to make out that Liverpool FC would struggle to prove they could afford the new ground. As we said earlier in the week though, Liverpool just had to prove they could raise the money one way or another and not necessarily show which method they had decided on. If Liverpool could prove that they could get a huge mortgage for the stadium if it came to it, then that was going to be enough proof for the committee. Whether a Kraft or a Morgan is waiting in the wings or not is irrelevant to today’s decision; the club proved they can build that ground one way or another and the funds were released.

Liverpool’s Chief Executive Rick Parry was pleased that the committee had released the funds, emphasising how it was good for the citizens of this part of Liverpool, how it was an important part of Liverpool’s own plans: “The Committee’s decision is very good news for the people of North Liverpool. It’s another significant step forward in our plans for the building of a new stadium, which we have always seen as a catalyst for the regeneration of the whole area.”

The £9m is part of a package totalling £24.6m for the regeneration of the area, in particular for refurbishments to Stanley Park – including a new lake – and the Gladstone Conservatory. A statement read that “Liverpool FC provided satisfactory evidence that the funding is available to it to build a new stadium and the award was made on that basis.” The work has to be completed by December 2008 under the terms of the agreement. Liverpool FC are also donating £5m towards that £24.6m, along with £8.9m from the Northwest Regional Development Agency and £1.7m from Liverpool City Council.

Flo Clucas has been very vocal in respect of this funding, giving the impression of someone agitated at a lack of action from the club. She’s the chair of the Objective One Project Selection Sub-Committee and gave Liverpool deadlines of her own prior to this weekend’s final deadline. She seems happy enough now though, saying: “This is a major step forward for the people of Anfield. It will underpin substantial investment by other partners whose commitment will help transform the neighbourhood. Jobs, training opportunities and major physical regeneration will build a momentum that we expect to be sustained over time.”

She told the Liverpool Echo that the money was approved based on assurances from the club that they had the money available. For some reason she felt it necessary to make a comment about having to give the money back if the stadium didn’t go ahead. She said: “The committee was assured that if we approve the Stanley Park restoration, the stadium will go ahead. It is a matter for the club to speak about the funding package. If the stadium does not take place, then this £9m will have to come back to Objective One.” Why there was any need for her to make those comments isn’t clear, but it does suggest that she still has doubts about what the club have told her. According to some reports, work to build the new stadium will get underway before the end of this year, so her doubts will be confirmed or otherwise fairly soon.