Liverpool’s famous Festival Gardens are to close next week to allow site investigations that could shape a multi-million development plan.
Contractors Willmott Dixon are set to drill several bore holes over the next three weeks to determine what lies beneath the gardens to inform a remediation strategy for the wider 100 acre area.
The gardens, which hosted the International Garden Festival in 1984, will close from Monday, 28 January and are looking to reopen Wednesday 20th February.
The results of the site investigations will also be used to inform how the 25 acre gardens, which lie three miles south of Liverpool city centre on the shore of the River Mersey, could be revamped as part of a proposed scheme to create an estimated 1,500 properties on the adjacent 28 acre Development Zone.
Liverpool City Council is working with developers ION and Midia, who have formed a joint venture company, to develop a detailed masterplan for the development zone including residential, remediation, funding, public consultation and planning / highways strategies.
A new, enhanced maintenance regime for the gardens is also being designed as part of the process. This will include a deep clean/repair and more formal landscape management of the gardens on a bi-monthly basis to tie in with the school holidays when the gardens are more intensively used.
Liverpool City Council is also looking to develop a leisure attraction on the surrounding site and is currently refining a viable business case. Meanwhile the council is also conducting soft market investor testing and is considering other proposals which would complement a wider destination offer.
The city council, which took control of the site in 2015, has been working with Department of Trade & Industry on promoting the site as an investment opportunity and the project now forms part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Portfolio. It will be promoted for investment on a European and international scale, most notably at MIPIM Cannes in March.
The Development Zone currently has outline planning consent for a 1,380 unit residential development which is valid until December 2022.
Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said: “The potential of the International Festival Gardens site is hugely exciting and we are now at a critical stage of completing the picture of how we can begin to realise its future.
“The history of the area as a former landfill site is well documented and we need to undertake these investigations to inform the engineers and potential investors on the delivery of these proposed residential and leisure schemes.
“We’ve tried to minimise the impact on closing the gardens for a short as time as possible – at a time of year when usage is at its lowest.
“The long term gain in terms of investment, housing and jobs is going to be a game changer foe the city and will secure the long term legacy of what everyone hoped for the gardens way back in 1984.”
The Festival Gardens site is split into three distinct zones:
The Gardens – 25 acres of formal Chinese and Japanese Gardens
Development Zone – 28 acres of fenced-off land with no public access, containing the remains of Festival Gardens dome and plaza, and notable landscaped waterfront bund.
Southern Grasslands – 47 acres of derelict former Festival Gardens land.