Liverpool opens biggest green space in 21st century

As part of the £50m remediation of the former Festival Gardens site, Liverpool City Council today opens its biggest new green space in decades. Tony McDonough reports

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


A former landfill site on the banks of the River Mersey has been transformed into Liverpool’s biggest new green space in the 21st century.

Southern Grasslands has been created as part of the £50m remediation of the former Festival Gardens site. 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.

This week there is finally a sign of real progress on the site off Riverside Drive in south Liverpool, three miles south of the city centre. Liverpool City Council cabinet member Cllr Laura Robertson-Collins and Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram will officially open the new park.

Covering 24 acres, which is five times bigger than Chavasse Park in Liverpool ONE, rises 30 feet to offer views across the Mersey Estuary. It includes 5,700 new trees and shrubs as well as 2km of walking paths near to the shoreline.

Southern Grasslands mirrors Port Sunlight River Park directly across the Mersey on the Wirral side. This is a 74-acre park that was also built on a former landfill site next to Bromborough Dock. It cost £2.3m and was opened in 2014.

Over the past two years more than 400,000 cubic metres of soil and waste has been removed from the Festival Gardens development zone. This land has been used as a public waste deposit facility for more than 30 years.

More than 95% of this material has been recycled including 100,000 cubic metres of earth that has created what will become an eco-haven for wildlife.

Cllr Laura Robertson-Collins, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods, said: “The opening of the Southern Grasslands is a watershed moment in both the story of our famous Festival Gardens site and in Liverpool’s journey to tackle climate change.

“It’s creation marks the end of a truly monumental two-year long process to excavate the nearby development zone. It is testament to how nature and wildlife can benefit from development when we put our minds to it.”

Planting off the trees and shrubs has involved the formation of new areas of woodland and meadow to create new habitats and to enrich the biodiversity in this unique coastal environment.

This includes wildlife corridors to boost the population of insects, butterflies and bees. Southern Grassland also contains a series of new public benches and picnic tables. 

The council’s principal contractor, VINCI Building, began work to dramatically transform the former landfill site and Southern Grasslands in early 2021.


Bro Nyborg
Port Sunlight River Park is directly across the Mersey from Southern Grasslands. Picture by Tony McDonough


A design team is currently putting together a masterplan for the housing element of the project. One that is approved the council will go out to the market to seek developers to take the scheme forward.

This excavation programme has been shortlisted for a national Brownfield Award.  The package of works has been jointly funded by Liverpool City Council, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, Homes England and OFGEM.

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Access to the rejuvenated site is also possible now through Riverside Drive, which now has Liverpool’s first ‘sparrow crossing’, which enables cyclists and pedestrians to cross the road using separate lanes.

Steve Rothera, added: “Our funding is helping to transform the Festival Gardens into a public asset once more and laying the groundwork for homes to be built.

“Rather than a forgotten wasteland playing home to dumping, this new grassland should be home to a thriving community of new homeowners.”

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