Chief executive of Downtown in Business, Frank McKenna, claims the blocking of the £5m Liverpool zip wire is part of a wider hostility to investment the city badly needs. Tony McDonough reports
Liverpool business leader Frank McKenna says it will be “scandalous” if Zip World walks away from the city after Mayor Joe Anderson blocked its £5m zip wire plan.
Early in the summer Zip World secured planning permission for a 400 metre-long, 450 ft-high zip wire between St Johns Beacon and the city’s Central Library. Due to open next year, the attraction would have created 30 new jobs.
However, on Wednesday LBN revealed the Mayor had bowed to significant political and public pressure and said Zip World would no longer be able to use the library, or any other nearby council-owned buildings, as a landing site.
Zip World founder Sean Taylor admitted the decision was a “setback” but has vowed to come forward with a revised plan to ensure the zip wire attraction does become a reality. He added: “We remain committed to working with him (Joe Anderson) and Liverpool City Council to find a new landing point.”
But Mr McKenna, chief executive of business lobby and membership group Downtown in Business, said Liverpool could ill afford to turn away investment at a time when the COVID-19 crisis was having a severe effect on its economy.
He added that every major project in the city, including the zip wire, Everton FC’s £500m new stadium in the docklands and the new cruise liner terminal had all been attacked by heritage lobbyists. He warned that Liverpool was in serious danger of slipping back to the 1980s when investors wouldn’t touch the city with a bargepole.
“Zip World were invited into this city and have already invested almost half a million pounds into this project.”he said. “It would be scandalous if, having spent all that money, they have to walk away empty-handed.
Everton Football Club, having spent a huge amount of time, money and resource on one of the widest community consultation processes we have ever seen, have been told that concerns about World Heritage Status will see their scheme delayed for months.
“We even have leading councillor’s calling for our ambitions to have a cruise liner terminal to be scrapped. The heritage lobby may be enjoying the unique power and influence they appear to have over Liverpool – but it is other competitor cities who are celebrating.”
Mr McKenna said the zip wire represented a multi-million pound investment for Liverpool’s St John’s shopping centre and would have offered a shot in the arm for the the visitor economy which has been left shattered by the pandemic.
He added: “Investors are now seeing a city that is closed for business and another city just 30 miles down the road that is saying ‘come and talk to us’. Where do these people who keep objecting to everything think future growth, investment and jobs are going to come from?
“Having worked so hard for over a decade to change the perception of Liverpool from being a basket case to a business-friendly city, it would be a shame if we threw all that work away by allowing the noisy minority to take us back to the bad old days.
“Inward investors will be watching these latest developments and asking themselves if Liverpool is still aspirational for its future, or more interested in protecting its past.
“The mix of old and new is what Liverpool has been so good at promoting in recent times. We are in danger of losing our way by allowing the heritage lobby to dictate an agenda that would be more appropriate for York than for a city that wants to be a dynamic, entrepreneurial, twenty-first century city.
“Those who are badgering investors, objecting to developments and saying ‘no’ to new initiatives need to be held to account and asked where they see the new jobs, investment and economic growth coming from.”