Southport Townscape Aerial
Southport was awarded £37.5m from the Towns Fund

Southport prepares to take £75m events centre plunge

Neil Tague

Top-level local approval is sought to progress the development of an all-purpose venue and waterside attraction, the banner project in its £37.5m Town Deal.

Sefton Council’s cabinet will next week be asked to sign off on plans to take forward the most ambitious of a raft of options for the Southport Theatre & Convention Centre complex and the marine lake.

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.

Since the Town Deal funding was confirmed, reduced from an initial £50m bid, outline business cases have been developed by a design team including venue specialist IPW, HOK Architects, cost consultancy Gardiner & Theobald, and Aecom.

The project has been allocated £33.3m of the Town Deal allocation, while the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority is also committing £20m.

Should this project advance, the existing Southport Theatre & Convention Centre would not reopen. According to the report from the council’s chief executive of place, reopening for two years would mean finding a further £160,000 for operating costs, plus a one-off sum of up to £40,000 for deep-cleaning and making it safe.

The STCC facilities as they stand primarily consist of three spaces: a 1,600 seat theatre auditorium, the Floral Hall Ballroom and the sub-divisible Waterfront Suite. Both the ballroom and suite are capable of hosting 700 delegates.

The complex has long been regarded as due for an overhaul. Hopes were raised in 2018 when long-term leaseholder Ambassador Theatre Group was replaced by incoming operator Bliss on a three-year management deal. Bliss had previously bought the nearby Ramada hotel and then the Waterfront scheme developed by Neptune.

Following the Covid-prompted closure of the theatre last year, its operating vehicle was put into liquidation, with the council taking back possession.

The cabinet is presented with five options of escalating ambition: doing nothing; doing the bare minimum in delivering existing bookings; developing a new STCC; doing same with waterfront activity; and option five, which is recommended.

This requires a total investment of around £75m. According to the report compiled for cabinet, “engagement is ongoing with potential funding partners and investors” for the £20m or so required on top of LCR and Town Deal support.

According to the report, a comprehensive delivery strategy is being produced to guide delivery over the next 10 months, with steps including operator procurement, full business case (for both the Town Deal and the LCR CA funding), detailed design and planning application submission.

Southport Events Centre

 

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What about making Lord Street smart again. Restore to it’s previous glory

By Carl swift

How old is the current convention centre? Less than 20 years?

By Anonymous

Southport has had a history of failed schemes. I hope the town doesn’t close the Floral Hall only to see this scheme also fall by the wayside. Sefton/Merseyside have to follow this through to the end.

By ChesneyT

If I wanted to see white elephants I’d go to Knowsley Safari Park.

By Alan

Liverpool seems to get everything, Southport seems to have been forgotten, like skelmersdale

By Jo b

This sounds like a wasted opportunity to me. Is there any evidence that this will generate more income than it will cost?

I completely agree that Lord Street should be improved as a priority and this could be done by reducing business rates and scrapping parking charges to increase footfall.

There are also a number of other local projects such as improving Hesketh Park and re-developing the Sands Pub and boating lake in Ainsdale that would bring many more benefits to the area in my view.

By Dan Jackson

Probably will never happen. Computer aided design images are just that. When the civil engineers start the digging, then it will be a realistic start.

By Michael Dowling

My main concern is that everything appears too centred around the seafront of the town.
There looks to be no plan to upgrade any other area of the town.
Arriving in Souport by train the station entrance is dark and dismal with Chapel street area looking rundown with empty shops.
Moving onto Lord Street what was previously one of the best streets in the north west, with high end shops and restaurants is now a shadow of its former glory.
I feel it’s a mistake to try and compete with large cities like Liverpool and Manchester.
I believe Southport should concentrate on making the most of it’s Victorian heritage.

By Paul Rigby

Why? There is a beautiful Art nouveau structure with ornate glass dome, a delight to see. The carbuncle addition (on the car park side) should be demolished. The rest should be retained! Spend the money on restoration, wetland development and Enhancing Lord street. Throwing money at something that will not work is criminal!

By Margaret Preece