Temporary closure for Festival Gardens amid site investigations for £700m transformation

Liverpool city council is working on a masterplan for the that could see the creation of 2,500 new homes, up to 350,000 sq ft of leisure space and a new ferry terminal. Tony McDonough reports

Garden Festival
The former International Garden Festival site in Liverpool


Liverpool’s Festivals Gardens will temporarily close this week for site investigations amid plans to transform the site into a £700m residential and leisure development.

The city council is working with developers ION and Midia on a masterplan for the 100-acre site that could see the creation of 2,500 new homes, up to 350,000 sq ft of leisure space and a new ferry terminal.

Contractors Willmott Dixon are set to drill several bore holes over the next three weeks to determine what lies beneath the gardens to inform a remediation strategy for the development.

The gardens, which welcomed 3.5m visitors during the the International Garden Festival in 1984, will close from Monday, January 28, and will reopen on Saturday, February 16, in time for the school half-term holidays.

There are three distinct zones in the development:

  • The Gardens – 25 acres of formal Chinese and Japanese Gardens which will be the focus of the Willmott Dixon site investigations.
  • Development Zone – 28 acres of fenced-off land with no public access, containing the remains of Festival Gardens dome and plaza, and notable landscaped waterfront bund.
  •  Southern Grasslands – 47 acres of derelict former Festival Gardens land.

In October last year LBN reported the overall scheme was to be included in a £2bn portfolio of major UK projects, compiled by the Department for International Trade, that will be promoted to potential investors across the world.

A new, enhanced maintenance regime for the gardens is also being designed as part of the process. This will include a deep clean/repair and more formal landscape management of the gardens on a bi-monthly basis to tie in with the school holidays when the gardens are more intensively used.

The Development Zone currently has outline planning consent for a 1,380 unit residential development which is valid until December 2022.

Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said: “The potential of the International Festival Gardens site is hugely exciting and we are now at a critical stage of completing the picture of how we can begin to realise its future.

The history of the area as a former landfill site is well documented and we need to undertake these investigations to inform the engineers and potential investors on the delivery of these proposed residential and leisure schemes.

The long-term gain in terms of investment, housing and jobs is going to be a game changer foe the city and will secure the long term legacy of what everyone hoped for the gardens way back in 1984.”

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