Liverpool’s Countdown 08 plans unveiled

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 Liverpool 08 building bannerIn around 60 days Liverpool becomes European Capital of Culture. The challenges and opportunities this presents to the city were outlined this week at a warts-and-all conference held by the public-private Countdown '08 Group in the Fact centre, attended by 300 of the city's business and public sector leaders.

Here's a quick guide to the presentations made during the half-day conference:

Sara Wilde, managing director of Trinity Mirror North West, chaired the event and spoke first

  • Private sector investment in the city's regeneration is running at £7.7bn, in projects either underway or in the "immediate pipeline"
  • 1.7m extra visitors are expected next year in Liverpool
  • Challenging inaccurate historical perceptions especially within the UK has to be one of the main priorities for the year
  • Three milestones stand out in the year: opening the Arena and Convention Centre Liverpool in January; Liverpool One [Grosvneor's £950m retail scheme] opening in May; and finishing the new Leeds-Liverpool Canal link at the Pier Head in the summer

Alan Stilwell, operations director, Merseytravel

  • Network Rail's engineering work on the West Coast Main Line will continue. There will be disruptions and weekend closures
  • A new First Class lounge for Virgin passengers will open at Liverpool Lime Street in spring
  • Work creating a free-flowing junction between the M62 and M57 may cause some disruption
  • Updated brown tourist attraction signs will be installed on roads into the city
  • 60 electronic variable car park signs will be fitted between Christmas and March
  • A dip in the total number of car park spaces due to development will hit the run-up to Christmas 2007
  • New coach parking spaces are subject to legal challenges with affected landlords but are expected to be resolved by February
  • A new Arriva tourist bus has been launched looping the city every ten minutes
  • Queen Square bus station is at capacity and layover space is being sought nearby
  • Changes to traffic flows on James Street will be completed in December '07
  • The new ferry terminal will open in late summer and is under construction now

Mike Burchnall, assistant director of regeneration, Liverpool City Council

  • Cleaning and dressing derelict buildings and spaces across the city is a priority
  • More than half of 100 so-called 'grot spots' identified have been tackled and work continues on the remainder
  • Legal challenges are being prepared to force landowners of eight eyesore sites on Edge Lane to carry out improvements
  • 65 buildings are now lit at night under the Liverpool Vision lighting strategy; a further eight will be lit by March '08
  • Traffic flows will be reversed on North John Street and Lord Street by March
  • 2,000-space Liverpool One car park under Chavasse Park opens April
  • Trees will be replaced in the city centre and Riverside Drive / Sefton Street will be landscaped by second quarter of '08

Claire McColgan, Fiona Doorey and Neil Peterson, all of Liverpool Culture Company

  • 70% of events in the Capital of Culture programme will be free
  • Liverpool has risen from 16th to 6th in UK cities for the number of international visitors it attracts, and will rise again next year
  • 600 volunteers have so far signed up to steward events, this is expected to rise to 1,000
  • Mounted police are being taught Spanish
  • 5,000 public workers from taxi drivers to bar staff have gone through a 'welcome programme'
  • Empty buildings and construction sites will be wrapped in themed artwork
  • Buses, trains, lampposts and shop windows will also be dressed in the themed artwork
  • Designers and developers interested in receiving the artwork and rules for its reproduction should email

Gerald Andrews, finance director, Arena and Convention Centre Liverpool

  • £60m annual economic impact expected from the new facility
  • 400,000 arena and 100,000 conference visitors predicted in '08
  • Convention centre will feature 1,350-seat auditorium, 18 breakout rooms, 40,000 sq ft exhibition hall, 1,800-seat banqueting capacity. Heathcotes awarded catering contract
  • £3.5m wi-fi system being installed
  • Arena will feature 10,600 seats, 22 hospitality suites, 36,000 sq ft exhibition hall, 75,000 sq ft arena space in total, in-house box office
  • 80 conferences and 64 arena events booked already

Rod Holmes, project director, Grosvenor

  • 80 new shops and two new department stores will open "late spring" [known to be May 29]
  • 2,000 shop fitters will be working on site in the first half of next year
  • 5,000 permanent jobs expected in total in Liverpool One
  • 500 organisations involved in recruitment across Merseyside
  • New five-acre Chavasse Park opens in autumn [September], planting is now under way
  • 'Bluecoat Triangle' area between Church Street and College Lane to open in autumn [September]
  • Novotel hotel on Hanover Street, Hilton hotel and One Park West flats, both on Chavasse Park, to be completed externally and ready for fit-out by end of '08

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