Liverpool festival site reopens after 28 years of controversy and neglect

Spectators who visited the International Garden Festival in Liverpool nearly 30 years ago have made a return visit to the newly reopened landscape.

Gates to the iconic gardens near the River Mersey, restored recently by Langtree and now managed by the Land Trust, swung open again on a site neglected and mired in controversy for 28 years.

Land Trust chief executive Euan Hall said: "The people of Liverpool have a wonderful new asset on their doorstep. It has taken a lot of goodwill and blood, sweat and tears to get to this point but we expect everyone to be thrilled with the results."

The £4.5m redevelopment blends original features such as Chinese pagodas, Japanese gardens and water features with new landscaping and paths. The park is now known as the Festival Gardens following the two-year restoration.

The 1984 International Garden Festival was the first of its kind in Britain and billed as a five-month "pageant of horticultural excellence". More than three million people visited the site, which only two years before had been a rubbish dump.

The festival, including more than sixty individual gardens, pavilions and a mini railway, was one of the first major projects by the Merseyside Development Corporation, set up to help regenerate the city following the Toxteth riots of 1981.

A trust spokesman said this week: "Tens of thousands of people have visited since the opening at the end of June. Lots of people who came to the original garden festival in 1984 have returned to see the new park and feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

"Locals are also very keen to get involved: We have been inundated with requests from people who want to volunteer at the park and have already got 30 signed up and active and many more people chomping at the bit to get involved."

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