Liverpool's dream to create film and TV studios look set to rise from the ashes at iconic site

A vision of the Littlewoods Studios scheme Credit: Liverpool City Council

Eight million pounds of taxpayers' money looks set to be spent on renovating an iconic Liverpool building which is earmarked to be turned into film studios.

The former headquarters of the Littlewoods Pools on Edge Lane was badly damaged in a fire in 2018.

Now it is being recommended that councillors approve plans to foot the bill for the remediation of the building with a view to year-long work starting in early 2022.

A report, which will go to Liverpool City Council’s Cabinet on Friday 3rd December is requesting permission to unlock a potential £70m redevelopment of the site, which would include major studios, creative office space and new media facilities.

The authority claims the scheme could create almost 4,000 jobs and would transform Liverpool into one of Europe’s premier TV and Film hubs.

The new Littlewoods headquarters opened in 1938 Credit: Littlewoods

Once at the centre of the Littlewoods empire, the art-deco building has been vacant for decades and is in a state of severe dilapidation.

It was leased to developer Capital & Centric in 2017 which wanted to turn it into a "world-class media hub".

But it was broken into and damaged.

The following year, a suspected arson attack gutted the west wing of the building.

Despite a criminal investigation, nobody has been arrested or prosecuted.

Firefighters battle the huge blaze at the Littlewoods Building in 2018 Credit: Peter Byrne/PA Archive/PA Images

The report explains, "Due to the projected cost of refurbishing the fire damaged building being in excess of its projected value on completion, this has exacerbated viability issues and created funding challenges. This further delayed the project."

A working group was formed with the aim of making the project happen.

Its proposals aim to kick-start a major redevelopment in two phases.

If approved, phase one funding will come from the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and be granted to Capital & Centric to carry out site investigations, remediation and main scheme design works. 

The £8m required is part of a wider £17m funding package previously agreed by the Combined Authority, £3m of which has already delivered The Depot studios, which are located on an adjoining plot.

Local artists Replete and BetaRok75 created giant street art on the building for the @GetItRight campaign Credit: Fabio De Paola/PA Archive/PA Images

It is hoped a full development contract could be agreed after the second phase is fully costed.

It is estimated that the council and combined authority would both invest £12m and a commercial lender would be sought to pay for the balance. 

The scheme, which would be subject to planning permission, already has two proposed major anchor tenants – Twickenham Studios and Liverpool John Moores University.

The city council says the arrangement would provide a direct link between academia and industry in what would be the largest facility of its type in the UK.

What facilities would be included in the scheme?

  • 85,000 sq ft of studio and ancillary space for Twickenham Film Studios, to be operated by Time+Space Studios. 

  • 75,000 sq ft of education space proposed for Liverpool John Moores University to deliver a sector-leading Entertainment Technology Centre to ensure local young people develop high-level skills to work in the industry.

  • A further 95,000 sq ft of flexible employment space for creative industries, which will be advertised to market for expressions of interest. 

Filming of The Batman on top of The Royal Liver Building in Liverpool Credit: Peter Byrne/PA Archive/PA Images

Liverpool is already the second most filmed city in the UK and is currently hosting productions such as Sky’s Funny Girl starring Gemma Arterton and Channel 4’s The Curse from the team behind People Just Do Nothing.

It also recently invested in and supported Channel 4’s Help starring Jodie Comer and Stephen Graham, BBC’s The Responder starring Martin Freeman and ITV’s adaptation of The Ipcress File, through its LCR Production Fund.

The BBC’s sixth series of Peaky Blinders, Doctor Who, Ridley Road, Netflix’s Stay Close, Sky’s COBRA: Cyberwar and major blockbusters such as Warner Bros’ The Batman and Netflix’s Munich: The Edge of War were also filmed in the city.