Developer Capital & Centric secures £11m from the Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram to help deliver the £54m Littlewoods Studios film and TV complex in Liverpool. Tony McDonough reports
A £54m film and TV studio complex in Liverpool is on course to be up and running by the end of 2020 after securing an £11m cash injection.
For the past few years developer Capital & Centric, which has already delivered a number of commercial property projects in the city, has been looking to create the complex at the former Littlewoods headquarters on Edge Lane.
Dubbed the ‘Pinewood of the north’, the facility aims to offer a sound stage for film and TV makers as well as post-production facilities. The UK’s oldest film studios, Twickenham, has already signed up as the anchor tenant at the complex that will be knows as Littlewoods Studios.
The TV and film industry is already worth millions of pounds to the Liverpool with its locations and breathtaking architecture used as a backdrop for countless movies and TV dramas, from Harry Potter to Peaky Blinders. There were 324 separate productions in 2019 alone thanks to the efforts of Liverpool Film Office.
However, without a sound stage to create indoor movie sets and the lack of post-productions facilities, a lot of the work that is need to complete a film or TV drama needs to be done elsewhere. Once Littlewoods Studios is full operational, Liverpool will be able offer film and TV producers the complete package.
According to economic analysis by consultancy Ekosgen, Littlewoods Studios will support up to 3,650 jobs and result in an annual boost of £199m (GVA) to the city region economy.
Now Liverpool City Region Combined Authority has agreed to an initial grant of £11m to help create temporary ‘pop up’ studios to be built on land neighbouring Littlewoods. This is scheduled to be operational by the end of the year. The authority’s support for the whole project is eventually set to rise to £17m.
Capital & Centric, which has a long-lease agreement with Liverpool City Council at the site, has already converted an adjacent building, The Bunker, into a centre for digital and creative businesses.
However, the wider project suffered a major blow in September 2018 when fire swept through the main art deco building, which was built by Littlewoods Pools in 1938, causing severe damage. However, the main structure remained intact.
The project forms part of Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram £8bn recovery plan for the city region and news of the new funding comes just days after the Government announced a £500m insurance fund to kick-start the UK’s TV and film industry, which has been stalled by the COVID-19 pandemic
Mr Rotheram said: “Our region has a longstanding role as the country’s cultural capital and the development of Littlewoods Studios is central to ensuring that we remain that way in the future.
“Given the economic impact that coronavirus has had on our region, establishing ourselves as an international hub for film and TV with world class facilities will be a really important string to our bow.”
And Joe Anderson, Mayor of Liverpool, added: “Littlewoods Studios is a hugely exciting regeneration project and this funding will ensure we can deliver the studios for the people of Liverpool. With streaming services such as Netflix booming during lockdown, there’s going to be more demand than ever for studio space.
Adam Higgins, co-founder of Capital & Centric, said he appreciated how frustrated people have been with how long this project has taken to come to fruition and insisted everyone involved had been working hard behind the scenes to make it happen.
“This funding just goes to show what a huge opportunity Littlewoods Studios is. Not only is it a key project within the Liverpool city region’s economic recovery plan, it will deliver long lasting regeneration impacts for generations to come,” he said.