City council in bitter dispute with developers

Former festival site is the cause of development dispute in Liverpool

The Liverpool International Garden Festival attracted 3.6 million visitors in 1984. Now its Otterspool site, largely unused for almost 20 years and recently nominated in a CABE competition as one of Britain’s worst wasted spaces, is subject to a bitter dispute between Liverpool city council and London-based developer Wiggins. In the middle of the warring parties is Southport Flower Show, which won permission from the council to bid for the garden festival’s 7,000 sq m dome last Friday. Southport Flower Show chief executive Mark Michelmore, who was involved in the 1984 festival, wants to target the horticulture industry in his business plan to use the dome as a conference venue. He said: “Southport has a classic flower show tradition. Liverpool has said if we want the building it is willing to release it. The proposal will go before our board in January.” A dispute about the future of the site has put plans on hold. Wiggins wanted to restore “most of” the gardens and to build shops and 1,275 “high-value” new homes on 30 per cent of the site. Council leader Mike Storey has said Wiggins, which took a 99-year lease on the land in 1988, should restore some gardens while the rest of the site should be residential, shops and a “coastal park”. It will submit new plans in January. A council representative told HW: “In October the council served a six-month dilapidation notice on Wiggins to bring the site up to standard as it’s agreed it looks neglected. We’re awaiting a response. “The dome is still owned by the council. We’ve agreed with Southport Flower Show’s application. The dome is being vandalised and is rotting; it needs a use.” Wiggins’ senior vice-president Tony Freudmann, who has “no objection” to the dome’s removal, said: “For commercial, environmental and aesthetic reasons, the gardens have to be in good order.”

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