Work officially started on site on Monday to bring the 50-acre former International Garden Festival area of Liverpool back into use as a public park.
Developer Langtree has signed an agreement with the Land Restoration Trust to manage the park once it is completed. The trust is a not-for-profit organisation specifically established to own and manage large scale public park assets.
The following features will be restored: two pagodas in the oriental gardens, the Moon Wall, lakes and waterways. There will be a new pedestrian access point linked to Otterspool promenade as well as new secure car parking and public transport facilities.
The restoration works will begin with the clearance of undergrowth which has left many original pathways buried and un-passable. Pedestrian routes will be widened and reappointed to ensure they meet modern standards. The garden restoration has been designed by landscape architecture practice Planit.
John Downes, managing director of Langtree, said: "All the partners in the scheme, Liverpool City Council, the Land Restoration Trust, the North West Development Agency and the local community deserve enormous credit for their involvement in finally making this scheme a reality, but in many ways the real work starts here. The creation of the park and the new residential community will finally deliver a long term sustainable scheme for this strategic site on a major gateway in to the city."
This initial phase of work is funded by a combined £3.7m grant from the NWDA and European Regional Development Fund. The main residential phase – there is consent for 1,374 apartments and town houses – will have to wait until the housing market improves considerably.
Steven Broomhead, chief executive of the NWDA, said: "The start of work to restore the international garden festival site is a significant step forward in spearheading the regeneration of this area of Liverpool and creating the conditions for significant future private sector investment on the adjacent site."
Land Restoration Trust chief executive, Euan Hall, said: "Once completed, the new park will be a magnificent asset for the local community. However, the most important thing about the restoration is that this time we will be able to ensure that the park can be managed for the benefit of the local community not just now but for many future generations."
The International Garden Festive took place between May and October in 1984 and attracted 3.8 million visitors. It is anticipated that the Festival Gardens will open to the public in spring 2011.