Council set to seek developer for Festival Gardens site
Liverpool City Council is set to approve a procurement exercise to attract a developer for one of the major development sites in the north of England.
A report to the council’s cabinet next Friday, 23 September is recommending a procurement process be undertaken to appoint a development partner for a 22-acre prime waterfront plot next to the city’s Festival Gardens.
If approved the council anticipates it will launch the search in early 2023.
The authority had previously entered into an exclusivity agreement with Ion, a reputable development company with significant experience and expertise, which had produced a draft residential masterplan for the site. However, this agreement expired in March last year.
The recommendation to procure a development partner is the result of an almost year-long review of the site. This is to ensure it aligns with the council’s recently adopted Local Plan, Council Plan and the Mayoral triple lock policy, which stipulated a new approach to development focusing on sustainability, inclusivity and social value.
As part of the procurement process, which would be funded by the council’s existing capital programme, Ion will also be invited to submit a bid to deliver a major housing scheme on the Development Zone of the site
Following the new appointment of a developer, a scheme for potentially 1,500 homes is predicted to begin in 2025 subject to relevant planning approvals.
Work to dramatically transform the former landfill site, which once formed part of the International Garden Festival celebrations launched by Queen Elizabeth II in 1984, is nearing completion after a two-year long excavation programme.
The principal contractor, VINCI Building, started excavating the derelict land in early 2021 to prepare the site for potential development.
It had been estimated that the £45m remediation of the Development Zone, which has lain dormant for 25 years, would see more than 380,000 cubic metres of soil and waste processed and treated to a depth of six metres, with 95% of material to be recycled.
However, with almost 80% of the excavation now complete it has transpired that the remediation works need to go deeper resulting in more material to be processed.
A second cabinet report has outlined this alteration to the programme, the costs of which are yet to be determined.
On approval, officers will be given authority to negotiate with VINCI Building, with the final sum being publicised on completion of ground excavation in the Autumn.
This mammoth excavation, which will eventually result in a net gain of 1,000 trees, also includes an additional £8.5m programme of ground infrastructure works to lay drainage and power supply. The package of works will be jointly funded by Liverpool City Council, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and Homes England.
A key part of these infrastructure works is the installation of a sub-station, the preparation for which is to begin imminently.
Cllr Sarah Doyle, Liverpool City Council’s Cabinet member for Development and Economy, said: “The site next to Festival Gardens is on prime waterfront land and presents one of the most exciting development opportunities in the UK.
“The city council is now at a critical stage in establishing how this site will progress and given its strategic importance to our housing programme it is only right and proper that a major review of our approach was undertaken to ensure it aligns with all the new policies we’ve adopted since our new Mayor was elected.
“Now that that review is complete a clear programme has been set out to shape its future direction. If approved, this procurement process will mean adding a year to the original timescales but given the site lay dormant for a quarter of a century our focus is on getting this right, as this scheme will be a home for a whole community for the rest of this century.
“The transformation of this site has been a mammoth undertaking and we have worked very closely with contractors to ensure the surrounding communities have been kept up-to-date every step of the way.
“It’s not a surprise given the sheer scale of the site that the excavation has surpassed what was originally estimated and costed. But whatever the additional costs will be, they will be dwarfed by the long-term economic impact for the city and the millions in revenue that will be generated by the council tax income which we can invest in our front line services.”
The Liverpool Festival Gardens site, which lies just 3 miles to the south of the city centre, is split into three distinct zones:
• Development Zone – 28 acres incorporating the former ‘Pleasure Island’ dome, plaza and waterfront bund.
• The Gardens – 25 acres of Oriental Gardens set around a sizeable landscaped mound with large surface car park remaining from Festival Gardens.
• Southern Grasslands – 37 acres of former Festival Gardens land that has self-seeded.