Teaming up with Liverpool heroes Jamie Carragher and Robbie Fowler to create a football academy at the former training ground is just one example of the developer’s community-focused ethos, according to chief executive Steve Coffey.
“Unlike most developers, we are here for the long-term,” Coffey told Place North West. “It is not just about developing a site and moving on to the next one. We want to stay in that community.”
Torus owns more than 40,000 homes across the North West and is in the process of creating 200 more at Melwood, Liverpool’s former training ground in West Derby.
The project includes the retention of many of Melwood’s facilities, including an indoor artificial pitch, swimming pool and offices. Plans are due to be submitted in July. Fowler and Carragher will lease the existing building from Torus.
While tricky to stack up in viability terms, preserving elements of the training ground was always part of Torus’ plan, according to Coffey.
“It wasn’t just a case of going through the motions and then bulldozing it,” he said. “We genuinely wanted to find a long-term use for the site that would be beneficial for the community.”
Enter two of Liverpool’s most famous former players, who now plan to convert existing buildings at the training ground into an educational academy.
Robbie Fowler, a striker with more than 183 goals for the club, and Jamie Carragher, a tough-tackling defender turned straight-talking pundit, each run their own academies in the city. These schools offer children educational courses for gaining formal qualifications and the chance to improve their footballing abilities.
Until now, the two academies have operated separately. Carragher’s focuses on communities in the north of Liverpool and Fowler’s in the south. The pair have been looking for an opportunity to join forces for a while, however. When the chance for them to return to Melwood arose, it was simply too good to turn down.
“It just gets the juices flowing, doesn’t it?” Carragher told Place North West.
“I spent my whole career here and hopefully younger people coming into this academy can have those same memories that we had.”
The academy will offer A-Level and BTEC courses, as well as specialist football programmes and opportunities to take part in other sports, including swimming and gymnastics.
Known as ‘God’ in the red half of Liverpool, Fowler said the academy at Melwood would offer children an opportunity to better themselves.
“It really is so important,” he said.“It’s great that we can be part of it because it’s the right thing to do.”
Preserving heritage is a contentious topic in Liverpool. The Unesco World Heritage badge is often blamed for smothering development in the city. While none of the buildings at Melwood are listed, they mean more to the people of Liverpool than many of the crumbling relics that can be found by the docks.
“There’s a mystique about training grounds,” Carragher said. “People don’t know exactly what goes on behind all four walls.”
Respecting that mystique is something Torus knew it had to do when it bought the 12-acre site from Liverpool FC in 2019, shortly before the club relocated to the £50m Axa Training Centre in Kirkby.
“We try to bring things through while respecting previous uses,” Coffey said.
As well as its Melwood project, Torus is in talks with Everton FC about delivering housing as part of the Goodison Park Legacy project. Torus is also continuing to refurbish the Allerton Fire Station.
Ogden’s Tobacco Warehouse in Everton is another example of Torus’ desire to pay homage to local landmarks.
“Heritage, history, longevity and making sure things are fit for purpose in the long-run are crucial to us,” Coffey said. “I think that’s the beauty of Fowler-Carragher partnership, it has created something that ticks every box.”
For Fowler, the project is indicative of his hometown’s attitude towards community.
“This is what we’ve always done in Liverpool,” he said. “We’ve always tried to integrate and look at the bigger picture. It is absolutely spot on it.”