Positive outlook at Liverpool: Making it Happen

Liverpool ONEMore than 150 people attended Liverpool: Making it Happen, a business breakfast event hosted by Place North West and Liverpool ONE last week.

Speakers included Chris Bliss, estate director of Liverpool ONE, along with Stephen Carr, head of business development at Peel Ports Mersey; Bob Prattey, chief executive of Arena & Convention Centre Liverpool; and Ged Fitzgerald, chief executive of Liverpool City Council.

The event on Tuesday morning was held at the Russell Building on School Lane and attended by a mix of Place readers and delegates from the British Council of Shopping Centres Conference & Exhibition which took place from Monday to Wednesday.

Bliss told the audience that Liverpool ONE, which will be five years old next year, continued to perform strongly. Sales were up 10% in 2011 and up 2.3% in the year to date. Liverpool ONE has attracted 100m visitors since it opened, with 12% new to Liverpool, Bliss added. The transformation of the city centre's retail offering in the past four years is proven by the attraction of brands such as Harvey Nichols and House of Fraser, which Bliss said would not have happened before the centre opened.

Prattey's ACC Liverpool also opened in 2008 and the council-owned waterfront asset is out-performing its business plan. Turnover last year was £14m compared to a forecast for this stage in its life of £6.6m. Prattey said ACC was now competing for European and world conferences rather than the UK bookings that had typified business to date. The council is also planning a £20m extension to house an exhibition hall.

Questions and comments from the floor reflected the positive mood among many Liverpool businesses. There was praise for the cultural and lifestyle offer but a call for a more simplified marketing and inward investment co-ordination.

The expansion of Port of Liverpool was eagerly explored by delegates, with questions about whether the locally produced Range Rover Evoque was or will be shipped out of Liverpool.

Carr said the roll-on, roll-off requirements of car export limited passage through Liverpool's mostly containerised system but there were some deliveries to North America and Europe with the potential for growth as new facilities emerge. Carr added he hoped to see import services of automotive and aerospace steel begin in 2013.

Peel Ports has a 20-year plan for growth, anchored by the £350m Liverpool 2 deep-water container terminal due to open in 2015.

Carr said the name deliberately retained the international attack brand of the city whilst locally recognising the impact of Liverpool ONE and trying to complement its positive economic impact.

Peel Ports is growing freight tonnage year on year by working closely with manufacturers, distributors and retailers to try and help improve supply chain efficiencies, he added.

Council chief executive Fitzgerald said the city could not be complacent and a ten-year plan for the next wave of city centre development would be published shortly, written by Drivers Jonas Deloitte.

He added that linking the rejuvenated city centre with outlying districts and continuing to improve transport links were also priorities.

Liverpool: Making it Happen was held in association with Liverpool ONE as part of BCSC 2012. Liverpool ONE also hosted a seminar within the main conference on Liverpool ONE as an urban regeneration blueprint, as well as a tour of the Old Dock with a 'meet the management team' networking event, and drinks receptions to market the new The Beat leisure units under the Premier Inn in Hanover Street.

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Positive news for Liverpool-long may it last!

By North Westerner