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Liverpool plans to become UK’s ‘Hollywood of the North’ with new studio scheme

The proposed Littlewoods Studios (CGI: Capital&Centric)

Liverpool City Council is plotting a major redevelopment of one of the city’s vacant buildings that could see it turned into one of the UK’s biggest TV and film complexes.

The Littlewoods Studios scheme could create almost 4,000 jobs, transforming Liverpool into one of Europe’s top TV and film hubs as production in the UK continues to boom.

A report, which will go to the council’s cabinet on December 3, is requesting permission to unlock a potential £70m (US$93m) redevelopment of the Littlewoods building, which would include major studios, creative office space and new media facilities.

The former art-deco HQ has been vacant for decades and is in a dilapidated state, including fire damage in 2018.

The report sets out proposals to kick-start a major redevelopment in two phases, with approval being sought to begin an £8m remediation of the building in early 2022.

If approved, phase one funding will come from the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and be granted to developers 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 Liverpool City Region, £3m of which has already delivered The Depot studios, which are located on an adjoining plot and consist of two 20,000 sq ft temporary filming stages.

It is predicted that The Depot alone will create a £24m economic boost for the regional economy, creating 360 new jobs and 760 indirect jobs.

The Littlewoods Studios scheme, which is subject to planning permission, already has two proposed major anchor tenants in Twickenham Studios and Liverpool John Moores University.

The arrangement would provide a direct link between academia and industry in what would be the largest facility of its type in the UK, Liverpool City Council said.

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

Liverpool 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 the Liverpool City Region Production Fund.

Other shows filmed in Liverpool include the BBC’s sixth season of Peaky Blinders, Doctor Who, Ridley Road, Netflix’s Stay Close, Sky’s COBRA: Cyberwar and blockbusters such as Warner Bros’ The Batman and Netflix’s Munich: The Edge of War.

Councillor Sarah Doyle, Liverpool City Council’s cabinet member for economic development, said: “The Littlewoods Studios scheme has the potential to be a real gamechanger for the city’s TV and film sector, underlining our growth as a truly world class location.

“The move from being the ‘go to city’ for exterior shoots to one that can provide productions with the studios and talent supply to match our stunning backdrops is one the city needs to deliver, as the economic and educational benefits are there for all to see.”

Steve Rotheram, mayor of Liverpool City Region, said: “Our heritage, architecture, talent and people mean that we will always be able to attract film and TV productions from across the globe. But why can’t the actors come from Kirkby, the camera operators from Runcorn or the editors from Bootle?

“I want our region to be the UK’s ‘Hollywood of the North.’ We’ve already seen the first temporary sound stages launch and it’s fantastic to see our £17m investment to develop world-class facilities at Littlewoods take the next step.

“In years to come, I’d love to see a production written, filmed, acted and produced in the Liverpool City Region clearing up during awards season.”

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