A public consultation on the future of Liverpool’s historic Williamson Square is to be launched next Friday, February 23.
Liverpool City Council together with Liverpool BID Company and the Everyman & Playhouse are to kick-start the consultation with a debate on how to reimagine and revitalise the public square, at the Liverpool Playhouse Theatre.
The consultation, which will run until Monday 30 April, has been designed as “an open conversation” and will ask the public and businesses to provide suggestions and ideas on how best to breathe new life into the open space – both during the day and the evening.
The square, which was initially laid out in 1745 and became pedestrianised more than 20 years ago, was last upgraded in 2004 with a £5.75m public realm programme introducing new seating, planting and a fountain.
Since then, more than £150m has been invested in the surrounding areas and with various changes to the city centre it has left the square feeling disconnected. Despite enjoying high footfall, it is used more as a through route to other areas rather than a gathering place.
The consultation is also responding to the Liverpool City Centre Strategic Investment Framework which set out a 15-year blueprint to transform and revitalise the city centre through major investment and regeneration projects with Williamson Square identified as a key priority.
A report to the city council’s Cabinet on the day of the consultation launch has identified four key themes to steer the debate on the future direction of the square, which also lies within the buffer zone of Liverpool’s World Heritage Site.
Re-imagine the square’s potential – both day and night.
Re-animate the square with a revitalised Playhouse Theatre at its heart.
Re-connect the square to its surrounding areas.
Re-engage the public and surrounding businesses with an imaginative events programme and inspirational use of space.
These “cornerstone principles” are underpinned by six objectives to:
Bring all the partners and players together to create a new vision.
Provide a vibrant cultural leisure destination.
Make the square a catalyst for the regeneration of the wider area.
Market the square as a visitor attraction.
Make better connections and access.
Create a square that is beautiful and environmentally sustainable
The cabinet report also recommends that mechanisms be created for securing funding for a regeneration strategy and specific development opportunities, in the short, medium and long-term.
Councillor Ann O’Byrne, Deputy Mayor of Liverpool, said: “Williamson Square is one of Liverpool’s main public open spaces and should be a vibrant gathering place but over the past decade has for various reasons lost its way and sense of purpose.
“This debate and public consultation is an ideal opportunity to have an honest conversation which, with the calibre of the major partners involved and the support of the people of Liverpool, I’ve no doubt will reset the play button and lead to some positive action – both in the short and long term.
“Liverpool city centre has made phenomenal progress over the past decade, the time has now come for Williamson Square to join the party and live up to its potential as a dynamic public space the city can be proud of.”
Bill Addy, chief executive of Liverpool BID Company, representing 1,500 BID levy payers in Liverpool city centre, said: “Williamson Square, which falls within our Retail & Leisure BID area, has for too long been a place to hurtle through. With careful planning, it has great potential to become one of the city’s best public spaces.
“Following years of ongoing discussions with our BID levy payers in the area about how to best improve Williamson Square, it is great to see that the outcomes of these are now shaping the next phase, ensuring the square plays a greater role within the city centre, and allowing our businesses to thrive at the same time.”
Deborah Aydon, Chief Executive of Everyman & Playhouse, added: “As we celebrate how far Liverpool has come since our Capital of Culture year, this is a perfect time to be shaping the future.
“This summer, we’re joining forces with the Liverpool Biennial to offer a new way to experience the Playhouse, as a starting point for exploring fresh ways for people to enjoy both the theatre and the square. We are looking forward to a conversation that is creative, inclusive, imaginative and ambitious.
“This square is absolutely brimming with untapped potential and is a perfect location for cultural, social, economic and environmental advances in the years ahead.”