Ion Property Developments, in a joint venture with Midia Group, is set to partner with Liverpool City Council to deliver the residential-led regeneration of Festival Park.
The council has been searching for a developer or investor for the 90-acre site for a number of years, and exploring different procurement routes. The latest launched in March; Ion and Midia both submitted expressions of interest, and due to similarities in their proposals suggested to the council they work together on the scheme.
The Festival Gardens site has a complicated history. The former waterside landfill became a centrepiece of the International Garden Festival in 1984, before falling into a state of disrepair and becoming the subject of various proposals which never progressed.
Langtree had a development option on the site and secured planning permission for 1,250 homes, which remains valid until 2022. However construction didn’t move forward, and the council regained control in 2015 at a cost of £6m. Redrow was considering taking forward housing proposals, however withdrew its interest.
In 2016, the council commissioned K2 Architects to work up a masterplan, and released its vision for up to 2,500 homes, 500,000 sq ft of commercial and leisure floor-space, a new ferry terminal and a major waterpark attraction.
A search for a development partner has been under way in earnest since 2016. As well as changing procurement methods, one of the delays has been due to the council increasing the size of the plot which it believes could be suitable for homes. The development zone within the wider Festival Park totals 28-acres, including sites for flats as well as grasslands and leisure space. Within this, nine acres along the waterfront has been earmarked for residential use; and while the council said building on this land will add to the remediation cost, the waterside homes are also expected to generate greater profit. If all goes well, Liverpool City Council is hoping for a £38m capital receipt from the Festival Park project, plus profit share from the sale of the homes.
A report is going before the Liverpool City Council cabinet on Friday, to confirm Ion and Midia’s six-month exclusivity agreement, and sign-off plans for further remediation assessments. Willmott Dixon and Arup are currently advising the council on remediation, and have predicted that decontamination works across the entire site could cost between £13m and £22m.
One of Ion and Midia’s roles will be examining this cost, how it ties in with a development plan, and ways in which the remediation could be funded, possibly through grant.
Leisure operator Heritage GB also has an exclusivity agreement on part of the site as it is exploring plans for a waterpark, and its proposals will “dovetail” with the work of Ion and Midia, according to the council.