Liverpool seeks Festival Gardens developer

Project to build 1,500 homes next to former International Garden Festival site in Liverpool could start in 2025 with the council now seeking a developer. Tony McDonough reports

Festival Gardens
Liverpool City Council is seeking a developer for the Festival Gardens site


Liverpool City Council is seeking a developer to take on what it says will be one of the biggest development sites in the north of England.

On Friday, September 23, the city council cabinet will be asked to give the go-head to hire a developer to start building 1,500 homes next to the former International Garden Festival. This would kick-start a procurement process with work possibly starting in 2025.

Development company Ion previously had an exclusivity agreement on the 22-acre site close to the Mersey in south Liverpool. Ion produced a draft residential masterplan. However, this agreement expired in March 2021.

The latest recommendation to procure a development partner is the result of an almost year-long review. This is to ensure it aligns with the council’s recently adopted Local Plan, Council Plan and the Mayoral triple lock policy. This stipulates a new approach to development focusing on sustainability, inclusivity and social value.

As part of the procurement process, which would be funded by the council’s existing capital programme, Ion will also be invited to submit a bid.

Although this latest proposal will be a large development, it is less ambitious than a prevous plan unveiled in 2018. This put forward a scheme to build 2,500 new homes, 350,000 sq ft of lesiure space and a new ferry terminal.

Work to transform the former landfill site is nearing completion after a two-year long excavation programme. It once formed part of the International Garden Festival celebrations launched by Queen Elizabeth II in 1984.

Principal contractor, VINCI Building, started excavating the derelict land in early 2021 to prepare the site for potential development.

It had been estimated that the £45m remediation of the Development Zone would see more than 380,000 cubic metres of soil and waste processed. It was to be treated to a depth of six metres, with 95% of material to be recycled.

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However, with almost 80% of the excavation now complete it has transpired that the remediation works need to go deeper resulting in more material to be processed. A second cabinet report has outlined this alteration to the programme. The costs are yet to be determined.

On approval, officers will be given authority to negotiate with VINCI Building, with the final sum being publicised on completion of ground excavation in the autumn.


Cllr Sarah Doyle
Cllr Sarah Doyle, Liverpool Cabinet Member for Development and Economy. Picture by Jennifer Bruce/Liverpool City Council.


This excavation will eventually result in a net gain of 1,000 trees. It also includes an additional £8.5m programme of ground infrastructure works to lay drainage and power supply. It will be jointly funded by Liverpool City Council, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and Homes England.

A key part of these infrastructure works is the installation of a sub-station, the preparation for which is to begin imminently.

The Festival Gardens site, three miles to the south of the city centre, is split into three distinct zones:

  • Development Zone – 28 acres incorporating the former ‘Pleasure Island’ dome, plaza and waterfront bund.
  • The Gardens – 25 acres of Oriental Gardens set around a sizeable landscaped mound with large surface car park remaining from Festival Gardens.
  • Southern Grasslands – 37 acres of former Festival Gardens land that has self-seeded.

Cllr Sarah Doyle, Liverpool City Council’s Cabinet member for Development and Economy, said: “The site next to Festival Gardens is on prime waterfront land and presents one of the most exciting development opportunities in the UK.

“The city council is now at a critical stage in establishing how this site will progress. Given its strategic importance to our housing programme it is only right and proper that a major review of our approach was undertaken.

“Now that that review is complete a clear programme has been set out to shape its future direction. If approved, this procurement process will mean adding a year to the original timescales.

“But given the site lay dormant for a quarter of a century our focus is on getting this right, as this scheme will be a home for a whole community for the rest of this century.”

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