Future Cities Forum online discussion: stadium-led regeneration

CGI of proposed stadium for Everton Football Club at Bramley-Moore Dock, Liverpool (MEIS / Dan Meis)

As Everton Football Club waits to hear about its' planning application for the Goodison Legacy - the second part of the 'People's Project' which includes a new stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock in Liverpool - Future Cities Forum held an online discussion this week on the impact of stadium-led regeneration in cities.

The Covid-19 outbreak has slowed construction throughout the UK and this is causing some concern to cities such as Birmingham which is regenerating the Alexander Stadium at Perry Barr in time for the Commonwealth Games in 2022.

Contributors to the online conference discussion included the Leader of Birmingham City Council, Cllr Ian Ward, CBRE's Head of National Planning, Iain Jenkinson (who is advising Everton FC) and architect Steven Kennedy from Grimshaw, who is working on the YTL Arena in Bristol.

Cllr Ian Ward described the importance of the £72 million regeneration of the Alexander Stadium in North West Birmingham. The stadium, which was constructed in the 1970's, hosts athletics and other events. It now needs to substantially increase capacity and become a more flexible venue and asset for the community and city.

When asked about the impact and challenge of bringing all the linked regeneration together, Cllr Ward said:

'The 2022 Commonwealth Games is giving us the opportunity for a much improved stadium with a new park and public realm that will benefit not just the local district of Perry Barr but the wider city. Just down the road from the Alexander Stadium we are constructing the games village, which post-games will become 1,400 new homes for Birmingham residents. We are also taking down a fly-over and constructing a bus rapid transit route right up the A34 which goes out to Walsall. As part of the highway improvements we are adding a cycle lane from the city centre to the stadium, and upgrading the station at Perry Barr. It's a huge challenge doing all this construction at the same time. Along with Transport for West Midlands we are working on a transport mitigation plan to ensure we can deliver everything for the Games by July 2022.

'Beyond the games the £500 million overall investment will be a catalyst for a further 3,000 homes in this Birmingham district. Another part of the planned legacy is the culture programme which will run beyond the games but the message is that all these need to be owned by the local community in what is one of the more deprived areas of the city. We very much want to connect things up, so the station regeneration is important. We want the games village to be located in one of the best connected parts of the city.'

Connecting effectively across the city is also vital for Everton F.C.'s new stadium development in Liverpool's historic northern docks. CBRE's Ian Jenkinson - who is a key adviser to the club - said:

'As a site Bramley-Moore Dock has been in a state of semi-dereliction for over 30 years. That has meant it has been a harsh environment and it has been unloved. Originally it was a coal dock. However it has excellent transport connections, is within walking distance to Liverpool city centre, has two Metro rail stations nearby and the combined authority and city council are working with the club on transport connections.

'Stadia can be huge catalysts in their own right. This stadium is not just about twenty odd days in a football league calendar. The club's very decision to choose the dock will lead, potentially, to a complete transformation of the area.

When asked about he community consultation Iain commented:

'Everton F.C. is known as the People's Club for a very good reason. The community consultation was also about recognising the planning challenges as the proposed stadium sits on a UNESCO World Heritage site. The project always demanded a high level of engagement but we surpassed our expectations. It's not the first time the club has looked at new stadium creation and over twenty years the previous attempts ground into the sand. This had to be a different approach and had to embrace what Everton is all about. The stadium could not just be next to a retail park and sit in the middle of nowhere. It had to be close to the club heartland in Liverpool 4 which is still an area of regeneration. It had to come from the people. We had to work out what our our key principles were for the proposal and these eleven principles are all about creating an atmosphere - in a football sense - where the fans feel close to pitch.

'Everton FC is very keen on its cultural role. It's a football city. The club wanted to give something back to Liverpool and wider region regardless of which team is supported. We knew we had to reach out to non-football fans. This site belongs to the world so we had to capture as many views as possible. Historic England has been really helpful across 20 to 30 meetings as have the city council and we had to connect with the full fan network and the businesses of Liverpool. We have never really stopped talking and we achieved 60,000 unique responses with 10,000 from non-football fans. Over 96% of respondents wanted the new stadium to happen regardless of club affiliation. There have been a handful of objections, including one saying the stadium is 'not big enough'! Bramley Moore Dock is one of Liverpool City's largest ever projects and is important for the Northern Powerhouse.

CGI of proposed YTL Arena in Bristol - the central hangar (Grimshaw + Manica)

Grimshaw's Steven Kennedy, who is working with a team of planners, architects and engineers to turn Filton Airfield's Brabazon hangars into a destination performance and exhibition arena, amplified the community theme:

'Our engagement with the local community has been central to the project for YTL. Both South Gloucestershire and Bristol City Councils have signed off on the planning application. However it's a testament to engagement with local people as the Brabazon site was a cathedral for work for the community.

'The three hangars were originally designed to house the construction of the Brabazon airliner back in 1949. There is 30,000 square metres of floor area. The British version of the Concorde airliner was made there, followed by manufacturing processes for both BAE and Airbus. Recently it has stood empty but the stunning long span structural engineering and the original purpose resonate deeply with local people.

'The client has been trying to find a sustainable use since acquiring the site.There will be 17,000 seat mixed mode arena in the centre with west hangar acting as a destination for food, beverage and work places, while the east hangar will be used as a flat floor destination and exhibitions space. These places, as Iain stressed, are not just twenty calendar day destinations and they must relate to their local community. The key is to understand a breadth of use beyond an arena itself.

'The main focus of any planning objections has been on sustainable access to the arena. The hangars are north of the city centre but It's only 15 minutes from Bristol Temple Meads station and has its own local station 200 metres from the arena which will be redeveloped with the West of England Combined Authority. There are numerous park and ride sites nearby with connections to Bristol Parkway station which connects to London, Wales and the Midlands. It is also only two miles from the M4 / M5 junction, which is important given access required for HGV's.'

Connections to water can be important as well. Iain commented:

'Water and Liverpool go hand in hand. These docks are reclaimed from the Mersey. The master plan and the vision respects as much as possible the world heritage status, as we sit within Peel Holdings' Liverpool Waters development which got consent in 2012. This seeks to make best use of water assets for work, housing and play. When architect Dan Meis took a look at the location he felt that the surrounding water helps to preserve the heritage aspect of the site. The intersperse of docks and new developments is something that Liverpool has done well over the years and that probably doesn't get the recognition it deserves.'

'There's often criticism levelled at community engagement programmes. We challenged the design and cost plan and it's not an easy project, so energy efficiency was one of the areas of concern. At Stage 2 we looked again at whether we were doing enough on rain harvesting and Photo-voltaic. Energy is being looked at from the 'can we do more perspective?' It's the right thing to do and it will cost more. The club is spending on preserving the site, on clean-up and adapting to the climate agenda.'

The Brabazon project for YTL is also taking environmental impact seriously. Steven added:

'We have already utilised existing construction assets to save energy and we are also looking at plugging into air source pumps for ambient heating and cooling within the hangars. There will be PV on the roof to supply with battery storage- and excess heat from major events can satisfy hot water requirements of 1,300 new homes.The project is pitched at BREAM excellent which is important for an eco-conscious city like Bristol.

Legacy remains core to all three projects. Iain concluded:

'What we were keen to pursue - for the People's Project - was an outcomes-based strategy based on the triple bottom line of environmental, economic and social benefits and measuring up to sustainable development goals. The legacy is important not just for the dock and district but the Goodison Park area as well. It's very much a two place programme bringing affordable homes and community uses to Liverpool 4 around the old ground site.'

Future Cities Forum will be reporting back on future developments in these stadium-led districts.

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