Authority can no longer afford the £1m a year running costs and the move aims to secure new investment, increase activities and visitor numbers with a promise it will remain open to the public. Tony McDonough reports
A Europe-wide search to find an operator for Liverpool’s historic Croxteth Hall and Country Park has begun.
Liverpool City Council has published a tender with the European Journal (OJEU) to find a partner to manage the estate on behalf of the authority.
The authority can no longer afford the £1m a year running costs and the move aims to secure new investment, increase activities and visitor numbers.
Council chiefs have promised the hall and the park will remain open to the public.
It announced its intention to seek a private sector partner for the hall and estate earlier this year and, in recent weeks, Liverpool developer and hotel operator Signature Living has publicly stated its intention to bid.
Signature founder and chairman Lawrence Kenwright launched a social media charm offensive outlining its plans to turn the hall into a luxury hotel and wedding venue.
However, Mr Kenwright, whose company operates the 30 James Street and Shankly Hotels, was forced onto the defensive following criticism of the plans.
He accused three unnamed city councillors of carrying out “faceless attacks” and called them the “three amigos” with “egos much larger than their talent”.
“We’ve been blown away by the incredible support from the local community and from people across Liverpool,” said Mr Kenwright.
“However, there are still those who have used the opportunity to personally attack Signature Living and attempt to tarnish our proposals with nasty, untrue and misleading comments.”
Panel to decide
Bids will be overseen by a panel including local stakeholders: the Friends of Croxteth Park, Croxteth Hall Volunteers and the West Derby Society alongside council officers and elected members.
The council, which has already undertaken a soft marketing exercise to gauge interest, are looking to undertake a staged procurement process leading to a winning bidder.
The contract start is currently estimated as February 2018 with the new operator taking over the management of the estate from this date.
The estate, which covers more than 500 acres featuring the the Grade II-listed hall, Croxteth Home Farm, a Victorian Walled Garden and the park itself.
It had been the stately home of the Molyneux family, the Earls of Sefton, since 1575, but has been in public ownership since 1972.
The tender will not affect a £3.5m plan by Myerscough College, who provide further education to local young people on the site,
Secure the future
Stephen Guy, West Derby Society chairman, who will sit on the selection panel, said: “We hope this initiative can secure the future of Croxteth Hall.
“Many parts of this historic building, dating from Tudor to Edwardian times, are in urgent need of refurbishment.
“This is Liverpool’s own stately home and has enormous significance in its cultural history. The new partner must recognise the special place Croxteth Hall and Country Park hold in the hearts and minds of our citizens.”