Conflict and co-operation in Liverpool: a study in contrasts

The Futurist Cinema

Liverpool’s Futurist Cinema

This week, Neptune’s approved £35m regeneration project for Lime Street in Liverpool has come in for renewed criticism. The Cinema Theatre Association has added to the calls from a local campaign of over 2,700 people for a public inquiry into the recent planning approval, which includes the demolition of the well-respected Futurist Cinema, which is currently owned by the City Council.

The Council has defended the plans, noting that the cinema’s structural condition means it cannot be saved. The Council had previously indicated, after discussions with campaigners, that it hoped to retain the historic façade as part of the regeneration plans, leading to dismay over the apparent backtracking.

In contrast, another historic building owned by Liverpool City Council is also in the headlines this week, with public opinion seemingly an integral part of future plans. St Luke’s Church, perhaps better known as “the bombed-out church,” on Bold Street is a Grade II-listed former parish church. A direct hit during the Liverpool Blitz in 1941 started a fire, leaving only the stone shell of the church standing. This has remained, acting as a war memorial and more recently a venue for public art events and concerts.

Both the Council and Heritage England are due to undertake around £150,000 of structural repairs to the church. There was previously talk of converting it to a hotel; Liverpool’s Mayor, Joe Anderson, has committed to keep it in public ownership, but stressed that any plans put forward must be viable.

St Luke's, Liverpool

St Luke’s, Liverpool

Liverpool Council is currently seeking public views, with people asked to complete an online questionnaire by the end of September, with particular reference to ‘types of use, degrees of renovation and forms of development’. Notably, despite the Council’s commitment to keeping the building in public ownership, questions do include whether the building and/or gardens could be suitable for development into a number of seemingly private uses, including a hotel.

It will be interesting to see the results from the public consultation, and how far plans for the development of St Luke’s or its gardens reflect these. The Futurist Cinema and St Luke’s Church seem to demonstrate two contrasting approaches to involving the public in planning. Early consultation, particularly when a range of options remains open, can help local residents and interested parties to have a sense of ownership over development plans. Liverpool City Council now needs to demonstrate that its plans to regenerate the city centre reflect the aspirations of its citizens.

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I am very glad the Lime Street plans are not to be called in. Although I have reservations about the design of the higher elements above Lime Street I think this could still be a fantastic scheme for one of Liverpool’s most high-profile gateways, and it is a decision that should be taken locally. I know the Council have worked closely with the Save the Futurist Group for quite a while now and they accept that the Futurist cannot be saved. Good luck with the scheme Neptune and LCC and I hope the spirit of the Futurist will live in your new scheme.

By Paul Blackburn

another interesting debate … but a very confused headline!

I cannot challenge the validity of the 2,700 people who called for the scheme to be called in but I trust your journalistic credentials, as we know how statistics can be manipulated, as so can no campaigns from agent provocateurs who may have a hidden agenda. I am not saying that this is the case with the Futurist lobby, they have a right to express their views and the LPA has the duty to consider them as part of the statutory planning process … and as part of the process they have taken all views on board and the commerciality / viability of the scheme and have chosen through directly elected Members of the City Council to support the scheme. I think its called democracy …

As for the Futurist … an interesting shed, adorned with a facade and was once upon a time a decorative auditorium that entertained generations of Liverpudlians … but is it listed … no … is it in a conservation area … no … does it add something to the streetscene perhaps?

Let’s congratulate all involved who have looked at many options for the site and have come up with a scheme that will bring much needed investment and jobs into the City … like I say it may not win the Sterling Prize but does it give Liverpool a front door to the City which is welcoming … time will tell.

And as for St Luke’s, the artists in residence have done a tremendous job providing access to art, music, culture and well being for all members of the community in very difficult and trying conditions … if you want to see what can be done with a derelict church, check out St Luke’s London and before I am shouted down I am not forcing a solution on anyone but suggesting that with the right dream you might get the right answer for St Luke, there is something in it …

By Norman Davies

Matthew, If you are going write such articles I suggest that you start to improve both your accuracy and check your facts. The Council did do not a u turn as it never said that it would look to save the façade but it did say that it and Neptune was “looking to integrate a section of the existing Futurist Cinema facade into the design”. This in fact happened on the original planning application which in turn was widely criticised. The Council and Neptune listened to the public and redesigned the scheme.The revised scheme which has now been consented has a façade which reflects both the Futurist and the history of Lime Street was supported by the locally based Save the Futurist Campaign.The request for call in was made by the SAVE Britain’s Heritage Campaign a London based group with little local representation or indeed support. The only party to request a call in was SAVE and even in its petition only 600 odd people responded, most of which are likely to be its members, spread throughout the UK. I would hope that you adopt a more accurate approach in your day job!

By Steve Parry

I agree that the headline has been very misleading.

By Paul Blackburn