Liverpool is setting the stage to be the most filmed city in the UK as proposals to create a new film and TV studio in and around the iconic Littlewoods Building are to be considered next week (Friday 18 September).
A report going to Cabinet will set out plans to build the Littlewoods Studios Liverpool – a 4.5 hectare hub consisting of film and television studios, and a new home for Liverpool Theatre School which is currently based in Aigburth. It will also provide new space for the city’s booming creative community – thanks to the success of the Baltic triangle, the need for space for the sector is overwhelming – and opportunities for an on-site educational offer will also be explored.
Located at both the Littlewoods Building and on the neighbouring site of Liverpool Innovation Park on Edge Lane, the new campus will create up to an estimated 900 full time jobs when at capacity.
The studios will mean that Liverpool can meet the demand for film and production facilities, after a report by the Film Office revealed that in 2014-2015, the city missed out on a potential £20 million filming revenue due to capacity issues in the city. Following the recent announcement about tax breaks for the British film industry, it is predicted that more blockbuster productions will be looking to film in the UK, and if Liverpool can’t offer the required facilities, the city will once again miss out on millions of pounds.
With access to new 20-30,000sqft sound stages and in a building with a greater height (up to 50 foot), it is predicted that Liverpool will become an even more attractive proposition for production companies making TV programmes, films, adverts, music videos and corporate videos.
The Littlewoods Building and adjacent land is currently owned by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), who will be disposing of their interest to the city council. All parties have been working together to facilitate this delivery and an agreement is in place to transfer the land and property interests to the preferred scheme developer Capital and Centric Ltd at no cost to the city council.
If the report is approved, work on the £25 million project will start immediately, with major onsite works starting as soon as January 2016.
Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, said: “This project has been a long time in the planning. Various sites were reviewed, but the recognisable Littlewoods building offers the scale required and is in a great location to attract productions to the city.
“Capital and Centric are a perfect choice as developer and their experience shows they understand and work well with the creative sector.
“With this development we can support the film sector, attract inward investment, give a boost to the local economy, create jobs, improve skills and generally enhance the image of the city.
“This also comes in the same week as we’ve announced Liverpool as the new home for the British Music Experience, so it all demonstrates our commitment to escalate the growth of the creative industries in this city.”
The former Littlewoods Pools Building has been vacant since 2003. Recently on the site, Capital and Centric completed a £4m conversion of the Bunker Building, creating 20,000sqft of speculative office space, attracting digital and creative companies. They will continue to work onsite and take direct ownership of the site with a 250 year lease, delivering the first two, of three, phases of the project.
Capital and Centric will look to create around 1,500 jobs throughout the development phases, through the conversion of the existing buildings plus further bespoke buildings for the Film and TV sector. The project will deliver super energy efficient buildings with a focus on unique design.
Michelle Rothwell from Capital & Centric said: “The Littlewoods Buildings is part of the history of Liverpool, with more than 2,000 people working there at one time. We’re really looking forward to bringing back to life what is an incredible and fascinating part of Liverpool’s heritage.
“We love converting buildings, they’re perfect for creating an inspiring destination, with co-working space, cool cafes and restaurants, and an environment to help businesses grow.”
Carl Moore, HCA Head of Area for the Liverpool City Region, said: “Using our land to help meet housing and growth priorities in Liverpool is central to our business and our local approach. We have been working with Liverpool City Council towards bringing this iconic building back into use and towards realising the film and media hub, which is a Mayoral Priority”
Claire Poyser, Joint Managing Director of Lime Pictures, said: “I am delighted and excited that Liverpool will have its own production facility. It will not only provide the impetus for growth for established production companies operating within the region but attract new business to a city that offers a greater range of backdrops than anywhere else in the UK.”
Maxine Ellis, Principal and Director of Liverpool Theatre School, said: “Liverpool Theatre School is delighted to be part of this exciting new venture. We have been involved in training talented young people to enter the theatre industry at the highest level for over seventy years. The state of the art facilities which will include a 140 seat theatre and purpose built studios will enable us to continue to provide further training at a world class level.”
Filming in Liverpool in 2015 is so far up 20 percent in the first seven months compared to 2014, with more than 130 productions being filmed in the region. Projects have included feature film Florence Foster Jenkins starring Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant, Stephen Poliakoff drama Close to the Enemy, ITV supernatural crime drama Houdini and Doyle and Sky’s flagship 2016 drama The Five.