The council’s cabinet has signed off on bids totalling £7.5m to be submitted to the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and Arts Council England to advance the £75m Southport project.
Sefton is to submit a pre-development funding bid of £2.5m to the combined authority, and seek a further £5m from the Arts Council in a capital funding bid.
Should the cabinet approve the funding bid, permission will also be sought for the executive director for place to procure a range of consultancy services as it looks to put together a design business case and operating model ahead of the Government’s March 2022 deadline to draw down Town Deal cash.
Consultants would cover five areas: lead designer/architect, structural/civil engineering, M&E/ public health, planning & heritage, and transport.
A team comprising venue specialist IPW, HOK Architects, Gardiner & Theobald and Aecom worked up the project to RIBA stage 2, allowing the business to be made that resulted in Sefton signing off on the boldest option for the development project at its June meeting.
The development of an all-purpose venue and waterside attraction is the main project included within the successful £37.5m Towns Fund bid for Southport, accounting for £33.3m of that sum. The combined authority has said in principle it will be able to provide up to £20m as the project advances.
The plans feature a new venue with a 1,200-capacity auditorium, exhibition space and co-working areas. A water, light and sound attraction would also be delivered at the marine lake.
Dialogue with the LCR has remained open throughout as Sefton looks to unlock the pre-development funding it sees as necessary to meet deadlines. As the report to cabinet noted, “the council remains keen to progress the project at pace, recognising the impact of the closure of the Southport Theatre & Convention Centre on the town’s economy”.
The STCC, which comprises a 1,600-capaciy theatre, ballroom and waterfront suite, was closed last year, with its operating vehicle being placed in administration and the council taking over.
The Arts Council bid is also time-sensitive, with the body having recently opened a second round of its Cultural Development Fund. Bidders who can make a case that their project can play a role in post-Covid recovery or wider regeneration can bid for between £2.5m and £5m, with bids due in by 15 October 2021, with funds to be disbursed in February 2022.