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The restoration has been organised by property investment and development company Langtree – which owns the site – in conjunction with the North West Regional Development Agency (NWDA) which is providing the funding.
The scheme has been designed by landscape architects Planit who have also been involved in the restoration of Liverpool’s Stanley Park.
A national not-for-profit organisation called The Land Restoration Trust which owns and manages large public parks will assume responsibility for the gardens on completion of the work.
The restoration will hopefully accelerate a 1,300 apartment project which collapsed in 2008. The proposition was to start both elements (gardens and apartments) in tandem. Langtree have planning consent to build the apartments, but are still waiting for the market to pick up.
It is expected tens of thousands of people will visit each year and the site will be free to access.
Chinese and Japanese Gardens
Masao Fukuhara, a professor in the department for environmental design at the Osaka University of the Arts, has worked on some of the most famous Japanese gardens in the world, including at Kew and Tatton Park.
Prof Fukuhara said: “The idea of a Japanese garden is to create a space which is extremely tranquil and quiet and peaceful.
“The people who come and visit it should become peaceful in their hearts.
“Chinese gardens, for example, are extremely dynamic with vivid colours, but Japanese gardens are very understated.
“The original idea for these gardens came from China, but the Japanese rearranged them to their own taste.”
The garden will feature pine and maple trees in the autumn and cherry trees – a staple of Japanese gardens – in the summer.
Satoru Izawa, a landscape architect from the same company which designed the original garden, was one of a two-strong team who travelled to Liverpool from Japan to oversee its restoration.
As well as planting flowers and shrubs, pruning the trees and positioning rocks, they brought over a Japanese sign which has been placed at one of the garden’s two gateways.
The restoration team is still awaiting the arrival of three authentic Japanese lanterns, and a water basin, which were made in Tokyo, to place in the garden.
The focus of the Japanese garden is the “azumaya”, or rest house, which was redesigned and re-built after the original was burnt to the ground.
Some of the restoration was performed by Quadriga
- The Garden Festival site is a former municipal tip that was landscaped and planted up as the site for the Liverpool International Garden Festival in 1984 by the Merseyside Development Corporation (MDC). They later granted a 99 year lease of the site to a commercial leisure company in the expectation that the site would be developed as a theme park. The freehold interest in the site was vested in the City Council in 1997 when the MDC was wound up
- The lease is now held by Langtree Festival Gardens Ltd. (LFGL), a subsidiary of the Langtree Group PLC. Langtree acquired the lease as a joint venture with the David McLean Group PLC – Langtree McLean Ltd (LML) – in May 2005.
- At the same time as approving the assignment of the lease the Council and LML entered into a development agreement under which the Council agreed to grant two new 150 year leases of the site subject to LML obtaining planning consent to redevelop part of the site and to restore the remainder as public gardens and open space. One lease will be for the development site (the northern third of the site where the Festival Hall was located) and the other for the remaining two thirds which is to be retained as open space. No premium will be payable for either lease but there is provision in the agreement for the Council to receive 40% of the proceeds of the residential development after the developer has recovered all their costs and the developer’s profit.
- LML submitted a planning application in November 2006 for a scheme comprising a development of 1308 apartments and 66 town houses in blocks of up to 8 stories high. There will be some space provided for local shops, cafes and community facilities at ground level. The scheme includes the restoration of the Chinese and Japanese gardens and the lake and the creation of new woodland walks and the grand axis – a new walkway through the middle of the site. A car park will be provided together with new links with the promenade. It is intended that the gardens will be held by the Lands Trust (LT), a public body, formerly known as the Land Restoration Trust (LRT). They have appointed Groundwork Merseyside as their managing agent.
- The application was approved by the Planning Committee of 21st May 2007 but was then called in for a public inquiry. The inquiry was held in late 2007/early 2008. The Secretary of State, in a letter dated 9th July 2008 gave consent for the development.
- David McLean Group went into administration in October 2008 and Langtree have subsequently acquired their interests in LML, now renamed as LFGL.
- In recognition of the difficulty of funding the proposed development in the current market in 2009 the NWDA made a grant allocation of £3.7m to the project (to include funding that had already been allocated to the project by Mersey Waterfront) to allow an early start on site with the gardens works.
- The Executive Board of 11th September 2009 approved various changes to the development agreement to allow for the works to start in advance of taking the leases of the site and the commencement of the residential development. These changes were documented in a number of supplemental agreements and work is now well advanced and will be finished by the end of March 2011.
- Planning Application 2006
- Council report concerning loss of land as open space and its associated documents (appendix2 and Gardens Plan).
The New Development