City council appoints Festival Gardens project team

Liverpool City Council appoints multi-disciplinary team to devise a masterplan for the former International Garden Festival site where up to 1,000 homes could be built. Tony McDonough reports

Festival Gardens
Liverpool City Council wants to build up to 1,000 homes close to Festival Gardens. Picture by Christian Smith Photography


Liverpool City Council has appointed an external team of development experts to devise a master plan for the former International Garden Festival site.

In August a new green space, Southern Grasslands, was opened as part of the £50m remediation of the site now known as Festival Gardens. In 1984, more than 3m people flocked to the location for the International Garden Festival.

However, for the last few years attempts to bring the site back to life have led to a number of false dawns. In April LBN revealed that plans to build 1,500 new homes may be scaled back to around 800.

Now the city council has unveiled a multi-disciplinary team of placemaking experts to help create a new neighbourhood on a 28-acre site adjacent to Festival Gardens.

They will work with the authority to prepare a development brief to maximise the potential of the location, setting out the parameters for elements such as sustainability, design, house types and viability.

Once this has been approved the council will then go out to the market to seek a developer for the site next to the River Mersey. This exercise is expected to launch in autumn 2024. The team comprises:

  • Metropolitan Workshop – an award-winning architect, urban planning and designer firm which has recently worked with the University of Liverpool.
  • Shedkm – is ranked one of the top architect 100 practices and has worked on the city’s Ten Streets masterplan.
  • Mace – an international consultancy and construction company.
  • Montagu Evans, a property consultancy which is currently helping to deliver 17,000 homes across the UK.

Following the appointment of a developer, work on the planning application for a housing scheme, with community facilities, will begin in 2025.

The two-year long remediation of the development zone – once a public waste deposit facility for more than 30 years before hosting the International Garden Festival in 1984 – has just won a national brownfield award.

This  award was given in recognition of almost 500,000 cubic metres of soil and waste being excavated, of which more than 95% was recycled including 100,000 cubic metres of earth being used to create the city’s newest park – the Southern Grasslands.

The package of works has been jointly funded by Liverpool City Council, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, Homes England and OFGEM.


Southern Grasslands
Southern Grasslands has been created on a former landfill site at Festival Gardens


Cllr Nick Small, Liverpool City Council’s Cabinet Member for Growth and Economy, said: “The development zone at Festival Gardens is a once in a generation opportunity – and we’re at a very critical stage in how its next chapter is shaped.

“The remediation of the site has been a monumental piece of work and has deservedly won national acclaim. The standard and quality of that work has already left a great legacy in the form of the Southern Grasslands.

“Now we need to maintain that level of quality in how we set out the parameters for the development zone and I’m delighted we’ve appointed a respected and experienced team of experts to help inform that process.”

Following the International Garden Festival a new leisure venue opened up at the site close to Otterspool Promenade called Pleasure Island. It offers bowling, mini golf, a roller rink and arcade games.

However, this closed in 1997 and the site fell into dereliction until 2018 when the then Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, proposed an ambitious plan to build 2,500 new homes, 350,000 sq ft of leisure space and a new ferry terminal.

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