A plan by Lidl to demolish the former Abbey Cinema in Wavertree and build a new store creating 30 jobs was thwarted by a heritage campaign – but the project may not be dead yet. Tony McDonough reports
Supermarket giant Lidl has raised hopes that it could still create a new store on the site of a former cinema in Liverpool despite a successful heritage campaign to prevent its demolition.
In May Lidl withdrew its planning application to demolish the former Abbey Cinema in Wavertree and build an 18,000 sq ft store, creating 30 jobs. Some residents were in favour of the project but heritage campaigners quickly objected.
In April Historic England, the public body which protects old buildings, officially recommended the landmark site for listing at Grade II level, a move that would make demolition much more difficult.
When Lidl withdrew its application in May there were fears it would pull out of the project to create a new supermarket altogether. However, now the company has told LBN it is still considering its options for the site but is concerned at its current state.
Last week residents complained it had become a dumping ground for rubbish. Lidl has now provided a skip but still remains an eyesore. Wavertree Labour councillor, Clare McIntyre, tweeted: “It’s become a huge problem.”
In the last few days Lidl has told LBN: “Our recent community consultation suggested significant levels of support for a new supermarket in the area.
“We are currently exploring options for the future of the building following its listing, however, our concerns of the condition of the existing building remains. We will provide an update to the community in due course.”
If Lidl wants to push on with the scheme it can submit a listed building application to Liverpool City Council which could grant it permission to demolish the cinema. It may also consider selling the site which was designed by architect Sir Alfred Ernest Shennan.
According to Historic England the former cinema is “an increasingly rare example of a medium-scale 1930s ‘super cinema’ built for a small independent local chain in the heyday of cinema design and cinemagoing”. It also features in the original draft lyrics of The Beatles song In My Life.
Speaking to Place North West earlier this year, Stuart Jardine, Lidl’s regional head of property, said: “Following thorough surveys and assessments of the existing building, it is quite clear that it is beyond economic repair.”