Sefton Council to borrow £20m to put towards the £75m cost of the proposed new Marine Lake Events Centre in Southport. Tony McDonough reports
Sefton Council will borrow £20m to complete the funding of its planned £75m Marine Lake Events Centre (MLEC) on Southport waterfront.
Later this week the council’s cabinet is expected to approve plans for a full business case for the MLEC to be submitted to the Government. It will also be asked to give the green light to hire a contractor and an operating partner for the venue.
As part of a £400m plan to transform Southport, in 2020 Sefton Council unveiled plans for Marine Lake Events Centre, a 1,200-seater events space to replace the Southport Theatre and Convention Centre which was forced to close due to the pandemic.
The auditorium will also be suitable for large conferences. It will also offer a 15,000 sq ft exhibition space capable of accommodating more than 3,000 people. Also in the plans is a water and light show attraction.
Sefton estimates the MLEC will bring an extra 500,000 visitors to Southport event year. The authority also predicts it will generate £18m for the local economy each year. It hopes construction can start in 2023.
MLEC is expected to cost around £75m. Southport’s £37m Town Deal programme will contribute around £33m while the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority is chipping in with £22.3m. Sefton Council is proposing to borrow £20m to make up the shortfall.
There have been question marks raised in recent times about the council’s borrow to invest strategy. In 2017 the authority took out a loan to acquire Bootle Strand Shopping Centre for £32.5m. However, in 2021 the centre was valued at just £15m. Sefton insists the Strand remains a vital component in the wider regeneration of Bootle.
Both the planning submission and business case proposal for the MLEC follow a detailed public consultation process held by the council. It showed that 84% of residents and businesses in the resort are in favour of the project.
Cllr Marion Atkinson, Sefton Council’s Labour Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Skills, said: “The submission of a full business case and the appointment of contractors and operators are the natural next steps in this fantastic one in a generational project.
“We are wholly committed to the delivery of this incredible scheme which will be of massive importance to the economy across the borough.
“We know that the public recognises the council’s ambitions to boost Southport’s cultural offer and visitor economy, as well as ultimately support local businesses and increase spend. This report reaffirms the Cabinet’s steadfast commitment to the MLEC project by borrowing up to £20m to make it happen.”
A more detailed financial forecast is currently being drafted and will be presented to the September meeting of Sefton Council’s Cabinet.
Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram added: “Southport holds a special place in the hearts of so many people in our city region. The town has been entertaining generations of visitors for as long as it has existed.
“We want to build on that legacy and make sure that Southport can continue to thrive and attract visitors for many more years to come. We are working with Sefton Council to drive the town’s revival and start a new chapter in its story.”