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Revamped Liverpool Festival Gardens site branded ‘tatty’

Community leaders have hit out at the “tatty” appearance of parts of Liverpool’s re-vamped Festival Gardens site – only two years after it re-opened to the public after a £3.7m facelift.

Among the features which appeared to have deteriorated significantly since a section of the former 1984 International Garden Festival site was restored are the Japanese Garden pond, which has no water. There is also evidence of decorations cracking and vegetation growing on the roof of the main Chinese Pagoda, and a leak in the main lake. The area around the one of the smaller Chinese pagoda has been closed to the public after a routine health and safety inspection of the structure revealed movement in the wooden columns supporting the roof.

Specialist surveyors have visited to identify what action is needed before it is safe to re-open the area.

The main lake at the Festival Gardens site
The main lake at the Festival Gardens site

The Festival Gardens site is managed by the Land Trust charity, with trained rangers and volunteers responsible for the upkeep of the gardens. The 100-acre Garden Festival site as a whole is owned by developers Langtree, whose long-term aim is to create a thriving housing and leisure community on the land.

However, its plans to build more than 1,300 new homes across 26 residential blocks – as well as a number of retail and commercial units – have been stalled by the downturn in the housing market, and the work has been put on hold indefinitely.

Among those raising concerns about the state of the Festival Gardens attraction was Liverpool council’s Green Party leader Cllr John Coyne, whose ward includes the Festival Gardens site.

He said: “It’s disappointing the site is looking tatty round the edges so soon after it opened. I was always sceptical whether the level of funding was sufficient to maintain an ornamental park. It would have been safer to create a more naturalistic area, with less planting and more wild areas, which would have been less high maintenance. We should be grateful to the volunteers who are still involved and are keeping it in operation. Langtree should be putting in additional money as this would make it a lot brighter.”

Alan Carter, head of portfolio management for The Land Trust, said: “The Land Trust is working in partnership with Langtree and Liverpool City Council to manage Festival Gardens while funding for the long term maintenance and structural improvement for the site can be secured through the proposed residential development planned adjacent to the Gardens. The conservation volunteers are our managing partner on the site and their skilled and trained rangers work on the site daily and coordinate a team of over 120 local volunteers who help us to maintain this historic site. In addition, we are delighted that further support is given by the trainees on the Green Angels Scheme who use the park as a venue to learn horticultural skills. We are sorry to hear concerns about the site, but are pleased that people are taking such an interest. As a former landfill site, it is subject to occasional differential ground settlement and the historic features and structures can be affected. Accordingly we carry out regular inspections and take remedial action as necessary. We are generally pleased with how the site is delivering benefit for local people. We are extremely proud that Festival Gardens is maintained in part by a willing team of volunteers – an indication of how the local community have taken this site as their own and value it.”

The charity said that it had recently removed the growths on the main pagoda roof.

When contacted for comment on the residential development, Langtree would only say that it was “a work in progress.”

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