Liverpool City Council has pulled the tender process to find an operator for Croxteth Hall and its 500-acre country park, a competition which Signature Living had been vocal about attempting to win, instead deciding to keep the estate in-house and launch an investment drive to turn it “into a major visitor attraction”.
Last August the council launched the search for an operator to manage Croxteh Hall, in what would have been a five year, £4.5m deal.
Signature Living boss Lawrence Kenwright was quick to announce his plans to bid for the contract, proposing a hotel, wedding venue, and glamping on the site.
However, the council has now said that, after undergoing a procurement process to find an external operator, it will instead keep the historic country house estate and develop a visitor and commercial strategy, based along the National Trust model.
A report to Liverpool City Council’s cabinet this Friday 23 March will recommend the authority undergo a major repair programme to the grade two-listed house, as well fund and develop income generating measures, including a new food, drink and hospitality provision, developing the current wedding market, operating more frequent events including concerts, seasonal fairs and artisan markets, and improve facilities for car parking for both day-to-day park users and those attending events.
The hall and country park already accommodates an adventure playground, gift shop, aerial rope adventure course, horse riding centre and café.
Retaining the hall would be part of the council’s “invest to earn” strategy, part of its attempts to raise funds to plug Government cuts to services. The council said it will establish a team of event, commercial and marketing professionals “to maximise the impact of the investment and turn the 500-acre estate, which also boasts Liverpool’s largest park, into a profit-making attraction.”
At the moment the estate costs the council approximately £1m a year, set against an annual income of £600,000, and the report recommends a fund be established to carry out the works.
Cllr Steve Munby, cabinet member for city services, said: “On behalf of the council, the Hall’s Trustees and local community and voluntary groups I would like to thank the bidders for their time and effort. They provided detailed but very different proposals to operate the Hall and Park with both bids having different strengths and weaknesses.
“It was clear they had put considerable thought into how they could satisfy the complex challenges this unique concession required. I fully appreciate they will be disappointed not to be given the opportunity to manage the estate but this new commercialisation approach to our parks has negated the need for an external operator at Croxteth.
“The fact we are undergoing huge cuts to its services has led to a radical rethink of how we run many of our services including our parks. Croxteth Hall and Country Park is the unpolished jewel in this city’s crown and it has become increasingly clear that the economic case for the council to retain the estate, invest in its offer, build a team and promote the events was the approach that made the most sense.”
Once plans for the visitor and commercial strategy are developed a further report to cabinet will follow with appropriate detailed business cases.
Signature Living has been contacted for comment.