At the latest Knowsley Council Cabinet meeting, we agreed that we would sell land on Simonswood Lane in Kirkby to Liverpool Football Club.
As people will already know (especially those who follow football), the Club is looking to close its Melwood site in West Derby and expand its existing Academy in Kirkby so it can bring together its first team and Academy operations on one site.
As part of the agreed scheme, the Club will be paying the Council for the land and also funding the provision of much-improved community sports and recreation facilities in Kirkby.
This is really positive news and will bring real benefits to the local community, including:-
● Five new high quality community football pitches;
● New community changing facilities;
● Enhanced landscaping and tree planting;
● Safe pedestrian, dog-walking and cycle paths; and
● Car parking for people using the community playing fields.
Clearly, this is fantastic news for Kirkby.
So I was disappointed to hear that some people are seeking to gain political capital by claiming – not only falsely but deliberately misleadingly if you ask me – that this is a bad deal for the Council and for the people of our Borough.
Some people, such as the Liberal Democrat Leader Carl Cashman, are claiming that the Council could have sold the land for substantially more money. So much more money, in fact, that it would mean we would no longer need to come up with a new model to maintain our parks across the Borough. This is pure nonsense, plain and simple.
First of all, the value of the land is worked out depending on what it is going to be used for if it is sold. In this instance, the land will be used as a sports facility and will have a legal covenant placed over it so that it can never be used for any other purpose.
You cannot simply compare it with the value of land which is being sold elsewhere in Knowsley for housing, because the land at Simonswood Lane isn’t being sold for housing purposes.
I can understand people asking this question if they aren’t briefed on the Council’s proposals, but Cllr Cashman has no such excuse. If he doesn’t understand the background to the deal, then he either hasn’t bothered to read the reports he has had on this matter or he is being completely disingenuous in his public comments. I’ll leave you to decide which of these options you prefer to believe, but I will say that his public comments suggest that he has read the Cabinet report.
False claims like this also suggest that the overall deal with Liverpool FC is a bad one and that we are getting “only £160,000” out of the bargain. Again, this is just untrue.
It is commonly known that the Club will pay £160,000 for the land, so I can confirm that here without breaching any confidential agreement. But the £160,000 is only the first part of their investment in the Kirkby community – they will be investing significantly greater sums into the programme to deliver the improvements I have mentioned.
The overall amount of money which Liverpool Football Club will invest in Kirkby will be many times more than the initial £160,000 cost of the land. This is quite clearly a great deal for Kirkby and for Knowsley.
The final figure will only be known when the contracts for all of the required works have been agreed and signed.
If we chose not to agree this deal with the Club, then the forthcoming improvements for the local community would simply not have happened.
I challenge the critics of this deal – are you saying that new community sports facilities, all-year football pitches, landscaping, dog-walking paths and cycleways are NOT important and desirable additions to the local area? Would you rather have had the other option – nothing?
I certainly think they represent significant improvements to the area for our local community and this deal with Liverpool Football Club is the reason we are able to deliver them.