Developer Capital & Centric submits detailed planning application for ‘high risk’ £70m TV and movie studio complex in Liverpool – a project that has seen years of delays. Tony McDonough reports
Capital & Centric has submitted a detailed planning application to transform the former Littlewoods headquarters in Liverpool into a £70m film and TV studio complex.
Backed with £17m from the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, the Manchester-based developer has also revealed new images of what the facility would look like. Plans include the restoration of the 1930s art deco building on the site close to Edge Lane.
Plans for movie studios at the site have been in the pipeline for more than a decade but the scheme has been beset with delays and setbacks. In 2021 a council report conceded the project was “high risk” but also offered huge benefits if successful.
Capital and Centric has already converted an adjacent building, The Bunker, to become a hub for creative businesses. There were fears the building would have to be demolished following a blaze in September 2018.
In October 2022 the scheme suffered a further setback when Liverpool John Moores University pulled out of a deal to take 75,000 sq ft of space.
Thanks to the work of the Liverpool Film Office over a number of years, Liverpool is already the second most filmed city in the UK. Major blockbusters such as Warner Bros’ The Batman and Netflix’s Munich: The Edge of War were filmed in the city.
However, the drawback for the city has always been the lack of a studio, sound stage and good post-production facilities. This means as soon as the cameras stop rolling, the bandwagon rolls out of town. This project seeks to address that.
Liverpool City Council has already invested £3m to create two pop-up studios on the site called The Depot.
Capital & Centric is working with Liverpool City Council as freeholder of the site and the Combined Authority on the development.
As well as two new 20,000 sq ft studios for big budget productions on the adjoining land, the plans also feature spaces for offices, workshops, studio support facilities and an education facility. There will also be a roof garden.
And there are also plans to make the building more accessible to surrounding communities. The former canteen which was housed in a barrel-vaulted hangar is to be transformed into a multi-purpose screening and performance zone.
This will be for the use of occupiers on site, and then open up to the public out of hours. It’ll feature five small format cinema screens, an outdoor performance space and permanent foodhall.
John Moffat, joint managing director of Capital & Centric, said: “From The Batman to Taylor Swift, Liverpool’s stellar reputation as having every ingredient to make shoots a possibility has drawn big stars and production companies here.
“The Littlewoods Project is all about doubling-down on the city being a compelling home for the sector, providing a missing piece of the jigsaw with more indoor studio space and vital support facilities.
“People have known for some time that the site is down to become a TV and film destination, but it’s a massive step forward to work up the detailed plans and show people what we’ve got in store for this iconic site.
“We listened to the feedback from our consultation and have made sure the Littlewoods Project won’t just be buzzing with those working in the creative industries, but will also open up to the community.”
Plans also include a green courtyard which will be open to the community, as well as greenery and landscaping that will pay homage to local screen stars past and present.
A new public link between the site and Wavertree Park is planned. This is outside of the planning application but is a shared vision by Liverpool City Council and Capital & Centric to improve access and connectivity.
This latest submission follows a a public consultation earlier this summer, with the feedback overwhelmingly positive with people keen to see a new chapter for the historic building secured.
Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram added: “We have become a magnet for film and TV productions from around the world in recent years – making us the UK’s most filmed location outside of London.
“But I want to take our region to the next level, to stake our claim as the ‘Hollywood of the North’.
“The £17m we’re investing into both Littlewoods and The Depot will be central in turning that ambition into a reality – helping us to cater for every stage of the production process and creating new jobs and training opportunities for local people.”