Lime Street project gets go-ahead

Rachael Tinniswood

English Partnerships' plans for Lime Street Gateway were today approved by Liverpool City Council's planning committee, allowing work to begin on removing the shops and Concourse House tower that mask the station's listed Victorian gable end.

The agreed proposals will allow the arched end to be revealed, creating an enlarged pedestrian area outside the station.

The shops are now empty, after the final tenants moved out earlier this month, which will allow detailed internal survey work to begin shortly, followed by the removal of materials from the shops and Concourse House.

The Capital of Culture banners will remain until the demolition of the office block this July. Construction of the new public realm will start in January 2009.

The Gateway project involves five public sector partners: national regeneration agency English Partnerships, Liverpool Vision, Liverpool City Council, Merseytravel and Network Rail.

Eliot Lewis-Ward, English Partnerships' area director, said: "It was always going to be a complex and difficult project, but the transformation of the station frontage is critically important for Liverpool, and I believe that once it is complete the city will have a major rail gateway of which it can be proud."

Jim Gill, chief executive of Liverpool Vision, said: "We have shared the frustration of local people over the delays to our plans to remove what has been an eyesore for many years.

"But we have been absolutely determined that this hugely important gateway would be improved, and we are delighted that city councillors have approved the new plans."

Peter Strachan, Network Rail's route director said: "The shops and tower have blighted what should be a marvellous vista for passengers arriving at the station from the city centre. At last the full glory of the 1836 building will be available for all to see and the new public area, designed to complement the overall look of the station, will fit well with the work we have recently completed inside."

A joint venture residential tower on the site of Concourse House, agreed between EP and Liverpool-based developer Iliad Group, was aborted in September. The controversial decision came after delays caused by the prolonged – yet ultimately successful – Compulsory Purchase Order and Public Inquiry led to prohibitive building cost inflation.

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