Engage Liverpool, a social enterprise representing an area containing more than 40,000 residents, has published an open letter to the city council opposing plans for the 400-metre zip wire, prompting its developer to hit back with claims the attraction would provide a much-needed boost to the local economy.
The zip wire, plans for which were approved in June, would connect St Johns Beacon and Central Library, passing over St. Johns Shopping Centre, Hood Street, Roe Street, St. George’s Place, St. John’s Lane and Gardens and William Brown Street, and operating from 9am to 8pm daily.
The wire would be operated by Zip World, whose founder has hit back at critics who said the attraction would “mutilate” part of Liverpool city centre. Instead, he said, the wire could attract 300,000 additional visitors to the city every year.
Sean Taylor said: “Our research indicates that the projected number of riders in the first year full of operation in Liverpool could be around 104,000.
“These people will all bring friends and family with them, which we believe will be an additional 200,000 spectators.
“This will provide a huge economic boost to the city’s retail and hospitality businesses. They’re telling us that it is needed now more than ever.”
Economic benefits aside, the zip wire, scheduled to open in May 2021, has caused consternation among large swathes of the city who believe the £5m attraction is inappropriate for its location.
The open letter from Engage Liverpool said the plans would “mutilate” and deal a “devastating blow” to the area, which features several sites of cultural and historical importance including the grade one-listed St George’s Hall and St John’s Gardens, which contains seven memorials.
“We are united in our love for this extraordinary and wonderful place, and we do not wish to see its significance compromised, if not mutilated,” the letter said.
A petition launched by Engage calling on Liverpool City Council to rescind the planning approval has so far attracted 180 signatures, including some high-profile names.
Screenwriter and producer Jimmy McGovern, poets Roger McGough and Levi Tafari and actor Alexei Sayle are among those to have signed the petition.
Another petition, launched by Cllr Richard Kemp, leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool, has so far gathered more than 1,000 signatures.
Speaking to Place North West, Kemp said he would welcome a zip wire somewhere in the city, perhaps by the waterfront, but that Zip World’s plans are “not in the right location”.
He said: “For every tourist this attracts, we will lose one. This could damage the local economy because it will put off people who come to the city for the culture.
“It is a very different clientele than those looking for a funfair.”
While much of the city opposes the idea of a zip wire in the city centre, Bill Addy, chief executive of Liverpool BID Company and chair of the Liverpool Visitor Economy Network, told Place North West he supports the plans, as does Neil Ashcroft, centre manager for St John’s Shopping Centre.
Sean Taylor, who operates three similar attractions in North Wales, said the project would give “a new lease of life” to St Johns Beacon and St Johns Shopping Centre.
Taylor said: “It is an attraction that will again put the city on the international tourist map. We are honoured to be delivering our first adventure attraction outside of Wales in Liverpool.
“There is no city quite like it.”