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“Critical phase” for Liverpool film studios

The restoration of the Littlewoods Building in Liverpool is entering a “critical phase.”

Capital&Centric are part-way through initial work on the project and have concluded they will need to dismantle the famous clock tower and try to rebuild it.

“We are entering a critical phase of the restoration, as we peel back the layers of the building following decades of it sitting empty. The building is revealing itself and showing us where it needs our input most,” explained John Moffat, Joint Managing Director at Capital&Centric.

“We’ve explored every option to secure the original tower structure in situ, but the conclusions of several teams of experts have confirmed we need to dismantle it, re-use as much of the material and recreate the tower structure. We want to do this soon. If the tower collapsed, it could not only cause severe damage to the rest of the building, but put lives at risk. Our priorities are keeping everyone safe and saving what we can of the buildings, working to minimise the amount of structure needing to be re-built.

“We’ve restored lots of listed buildings and our experience meant we always anticipated the ongoing remediation would uncover structural challenges. Dismantling the tower will cost more, but it’s a necessary last resort – one that can be covered under the existing project budget.

“It’s likely the building will look quite sorry for itself once the tower section is removed, but it will improve over time as restorative work progresses. Our intention is to record the structure in detail, keep what we can of the materials and rebuild it as part of the re-purposing of the site into a cultural hub for TV and film. Elsewhere on site, good progress is being made to clear out the buildings from years of debris and decay and prep the two wings for redevelopment.”

The aim is for the 1930s Edge Lane site to become a world-class film and television campus, creating thousands of jobs.

However, after being empty for years and then a huge fire engulfing the building in 2018, engineers have needed to undertake work to make it structurally sound ahead of the final restoration.

Digital analysis of laser monitoring placed on the clock tower to track its movement and condition confirmed that it was unsafe and if left, could collapse.

It will be taken down in the coming weeks.

Capital&Centric said they planned for detailed photographic and survey records to be kept. The intention is to rebuild the tower in the same spot, reusing elements of the original from the overhaul of the site. 

A planning application is currently with Liverpool City Council for consideration and will include the rebuilding of the tower.

“The Littlewoods building has been a massive part of the Liverpool community for generations, and I know it holds a special place in the hearts of many of our residents. Throughout this process, we have been committed to preserving the building’s iconic heritage, however, we also need to ensure that it is carefully and safely restored to fulfil their big ambitions we have for its future,’ added Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region.

“Our area is already the second most filmed location outside of London and the £17m the Combined Authority has invested into this project will ensure that Liverpool City Region can continue to cater for every stage of the production process and attract the thousands of jobs and training opportunities it will bring. It is a huge step towards cementing the City Region’s status as the Hollywood of the North.”

Once made structurally sound, contractors will move in, with the priority being to construct 2 new 20,000sq.ft studios for big budget productions.

Plans submitted to the city council also include a landscaped courtyard gardens and a roof terrace, screening and performance zone, and foodhall. 

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