Liverpool Football Club has handed over its training ground for the last 70 years to Torus after relocating to a new site in Kirkby, paving the way for the housing group to redevelop the facility into 160 homes.
LFC agreed to sell the 12-acre Melwood Training Ground off Melwood Drive, between Croxteth Park and West Derby Golf Club, to the Liverpool-based housebuilder last August.
Torus is now in the process of drawing up designs for the site with architect Corstorphine + Wright, and intends to submit a planning application in January or February next year, it said.
Andy Hughes, managing director of Liverpool Football Club, described the move from Melwood as “the end of an era for the club”.
“It is with a heavy heart that we bid a fond farewell to Melwood, our training base for the last seventy years. However, it will always be ingrained in the rich tapestry of the club,” he said, in a joint interview with Place North West alongside Torus executives.
LFC outlined plans in 2017 for a £50m expansion of its Kirkby facility, where the club’s academy has trained since the late 1990s, and announced its intention to sell the Melwood site to a developer.
Taking advantage of the break in Premier League action, during which many of the first team squad are away on international duty, the club has begun the process of relocating to the new £50m Axa Training Centre.
The redevelopment of Melwood is likely to feature homes for shared ownership as well as an extra-care scheme aimed at elderly residents, according to Torus Developments, the group’s housebuilding arm.
The company’s managing director Chris Bowen told Place North West that developing a site like Melwood, which has been synonymous with football for so long, comes with pressure. Torus’ plans for the site will therefore aim to maintain Melwood’s connection to the community, as well as addressing a lack of affordable housing in the West Derby area.
The main building at the site, which features the board room, changing rooms and gym, would be retained under the proposals, and is earmarked for community uses as the developer seeks to embed a lasting footballing legacy into the scheme.
“Part of the reason we bought the site is because of that legacy element,” said Kate Ellison, director of housing growth and partnerships at Torus Developments. “We see it as an opportunity to create something innovative and groundbreaking.”
She added: “The existing building is an amazing asset on the site so we are working with local communities and charities to ensure we retain and repurpose it into a meaningful and sustainable community use.”
Former Liverpool player and two-time European Cup winner Ian Callaghan told Place North West that Liverpool’s leaving Melwood for more modern facilities is a “sad day”.
“I trained there for 20 years,” he said. “It has been a massive part of the club and it meant so much to players. I hope [Torus] leaves something there that is always connected to the football club.”
The 160 homes that Torus plans to build at Melwood would add to the 2,000 it already operates in the surrounding area, and to the company’s broader ambition to revitalise sites across the city, according to Bowen.
“This is a community-focused development,” he said. “It isn’t just about building houses. This is about ambitious, sustainable design and shared spaces where people can connect. It is about creating a vital community resource.”
He concluded: “We think we can create a long-lasting generational legacy at Melwood, which is important to us and important to the city. As a social landlord, we recognised that this part of Liverpool has serious issues in the supply of affordable housing and specialist accommodation, and that is what drove us [to buy the site].”
Torus is leading a consultation on its proposals that will run into the start of the new year and, if plans are approved by Liverpool City Council, a start on site is scheduled for the end of 2021.
The developer hopes to complete the scheme by March 2024.