The transformation of Liverpool’s Festival Gardens site into a ‘world-class cultural destination’ has moved a step closer following the completion of a deal which provides Liverpool City Council with ownership of the riverside site.
As revealed in March 2015, Liverpool’s Mayor Joe Anderson wants to use the land to create a new open space for the public to use which could also be used for community, cultural and artistic events.
It is hoped that the site could become an extension of the city’s current theatrical, musical and public art offer.
The council has completed negotiations with property investment and development company Langtree to acquire the land and is investigating the possibility of using some of site for the development of new high-quality housing to support the growth of the city.
Mayor Anderson said: “This is a significant moment in the future of the Festival Gardens site and brings a bright new cultural future considerably closer to reality.
“We have worked well with Langtree in concluding the deal in a short timeframe to allow us to get on with the important matter at hand of delivering a great new visitor attraction and maximising the development opportunities at this critically important site.”
The purchase of the site was agreed following agreement from Liverpool City Council cabinet which met in March. A report to the cabinet which recommended its purchase said: “The site represents some unique opportunities for cultural events, concerts, exhibitions and community engagement. Because of the nature of the site it could be an extension of the city’s theatrical, musical and public art offer.
“Examples could be holding an artist in residence programme working in partnership with the Universities and using the site as a vibrant outdoor classroom with activities for school children through to adults enabling them to experience the diverse horticulture of the site.
“An opportunity also exists for Culture Liverpool to work with Liverpool Biennial and Tate Liverpool to develop a coherent and integrated approach to the development of the Festival Gardens site as a unique and world-class cultural destination.
“Ideas could include an outdoor gallery of public art commissions. The site could then operate as an interactive artists’ playground for children, families and adults.”
Stephen Barnes, Development Director at Langtree, said: “We always recognised the strategic importance of this site to the future of the city and are pleased to be handing it on in a considerably better condition than we found it in 2005.
“The restored gardens provide a foundation stone upon which a new future for the entire site can be built and we wish the City well in their future endeavours.
“As a company, we remain committed to the Liverpool City Region and will continue to seek out development opportunities in the area.”
A detailed and extensive master-planning process carried out in partnership with Liverpool City Council culminated in a planning application being submitted November 2006 for the development of 1,308 apartments and 66 town houses.
Included within the plans were proposals to restore the Chinese and Japanese gardens, the lake and the creation of new woodland walks.
The application was approved by the city council in May 2007 but was later called in for a public inquiry, with final consent being granted in July 2008, during the onset of the credit crunch and global recession.
Langtree successfully undertook a major programme of remediation to enable the public to use the garden site as open space. That work was completed by the company and the gardens opened to the public in 2012.