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COUNCILLORS have been urged to consider dropping out of the vote on Everton's application for a new academy . . . if they support the Reds or the Blues.

The meeting to decide if the plans for the Halewood development get the goahead could end in farce if too many councillors take up the advice of senior officers and declare an interest.

A report to all the councillors on Knowsley's planning committee says their judgement could be swayed by their soccer allegiance at Thursday's meeting.

If too many members declare an interest, there might not be enough left to make a decision.

The ECHO has seen a memo circulated to members by planning officers that tells them to think carefully about the dilemma.

It says a report by the ombudsman into Liverpool council's handling of an application to extend Liverpool FC's Anfield ground ruled that supporting a team is a possible prejudicial interest.

The memo says: ``The ombudsman took the view that support for a football club engenders a particularly intense type of loyalty.

``The ombudsman was in no doubt that a reasonable member of the public would have felt it might have been a substantial influence on the way the councillor voted.

``Season ticket holders or regular match attenders should not only have declared an interest, but also left the meeting.''

The note leaves it up to councillors to decide themselves if their support for Everton, Liverpool or any other Premiership team is an interest to declare.

The plans are recommended for approval next week, but have aroused controversy in Halewood.

They propose a complex of 13 football pitches, practice areas, a pavilion, groundsman's store and security lodge on a 55-acre site off Finch Lane.

But, as the ECHO reported last week, the plans have many opponents, with 382 residents writing to object.

A lobby group that successfully fought off a 600-acre industrial development on the same green belt land two years ago has re-formed to oppose it.

Help Halewood says the complex will eat into protected green space and could lead to further development. The group is lobbying for the plans to be called in by the Secretary of State.

But planning officers agree with the club's argument that the scheme's merits outweigh the harm caused to the green belt.
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Copyright 2002 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Nov 18, 2002
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