A few people know that my background is Local Government Regeneration and Economic Development. I spent 3 great years at West Lancashire District Council, followed by a further 11 years at Wirral Borough Council. Such was the breadth and diversity of regeneration projects that came along, driven by political agendas, developer interest or sheer funding opportunity (who remembers the good old days of the North West Regional Development Agency and plentiful EU Funding (ESF and ERDF), SRB, NRF, and HMRI before the 2008 crash?), that Economic Development teams had the luxury of working with projects ranging from new build, refurbishment, public realm, art and culture, education and skills, community development, the list goes on
For a regeneration practitioner and project manager the range of opportunity was exciting and still is. The recent Reconnections conference held in Liverpool last month proved that regeneration is still a driving force, where delegates were informed of the regeneration plans underway in major waterfront cities Liverpool, Cardiff and Belfast. Three very different places with waterfront connections and ambitious regeneration and economic growth strategies.
Liverpool was centre stage and was the first City out of the three to host the Reconnections Conference, with Cardiff and Belfast set to host their own conferences in 2016 and 2017. The event took place in the Titanic Hotel, itself an exemplar of heritage restoration, being part of the £36m redevelopment of the historic Stanley Dock complex. It is located in what was the North Warehouse, built in 1846 and finished in 1854; rum and tobacco imported from exotic locations were stored here. The 200m long, 50m wide Tobacco Warehouse, is thought to be the largest brick building in Europe.
Recently the Titanic Hotel has become a major new conference, banqueting and exhibition venue. Breathtakingly simple but stunning, a real advocate for how regeneration of a heritage site can be innovative, transformative and visionary, whilst still managing to retain the essence of its formative architecture. A luxury destination in the heart of Liverpool.
Delegates heard about the transformation of Liverpool from its legacy of deprivation in the 1980s, synonymous with the Toxteth riots, to 21st century Liverpool which is still riding high and reaping the benefits 8 years on from its successful hosting of its year-long arts and cultural programme, Liverpool’s Capital of Culture 2008.
The seeds of what we now know as modern-day regeneration were sown in Liverpool with the intervention of the MP Michael Heseltine. 30 years on and Liverpool is ambitious in its economic development plans, as a City it is a renowned ‘risk taker’ and Liverpool delivers its own brand of regeneration with a ‘twist’.
I came away from the Reconnections conference excited and inspired by the range, scope and sheer opportunity of heritage projects underway in the UK. There are common issues and difficulties faced by industrial, maritime and transport heritage sectors, so much so that the leading bodies are now looking to set up a cross-sectoral network in the North West to share and learn from heritage best practice.
We are also on the cusp of another 2 day Heritage event in December, this time in Manchester, and led jointly by the Princes Trust Regeneration, Heritage Lottery Fund and Historic England. The conference will explore the challenges and benefits of reusing vacant and at-risk buildings, such as former warehouses and factories.
The conference marks the Council of Europe’s declaration of 2015 as European Industrial & Technical Heritage Year.
I’ve been fortunate over the last 9 months to have become involved with two very different, but equally inspiring, heritage projects - Cannington Shaw in St. Helens and Linacre Methodist Mission in Litherland. The opportunity to work within the realms of built heritage, conservation and restoration is an exciting new addition to my previous regeneration experience.
The decline of the glass-making industry in St. Helens is a relatively recent occurrence, and yet the industry was of key importance to the development and economic viability of the town from the eighteenth century. St. Helens is noted as an ‘iconic’ industrial place, having been the launch-pad of many world firsts including coal, glass, canals and railways. Many of the physical remains of these industries have since been lost, placing an increased importance on those structures which survive.
The Sherdley Glass plant finally closed in 1981 after over a hundred years of production. However UGB - as United Glass was locally known - continued manufacturing until 1999.
The Cannington Shaw structure (No7 Bottle Shop) is all that remains of UGB Glass, having survived the major site clearance programme in 1982. It is one of two Scheduled Ancient Monuments in St. Helens, and along with its neighbour ‘the Hotties’ at the World of Glass, has designated and afforded protection reflecting its industrial heritage in St. Helens. It is also a Grade II Listed Building, currently derelict and at risk of further deterioration.
In 2014 the BBC highlighted the plight of Cannington Shaw as part of its Heritage at Risk investigations and through their ‘Restoring England’s Heritage North West’ Programme.
Cannington Shaw is situated at the heart of the Town Centre redevelopment scheme including the St. Helens RLFC Rugby Stadium and the Tesco Extra supermarket. Prior to becoming involved in this project I had often looked at the site and wondered of its plight. Why did it sit so alone, fenced off and neglected when a multi-million pound regeneration scheme was being developed all around its borders?
I have worked alongside a strong cohort of community volunteers with an interest and passion in saving this building and restoring it as a viable cultural and heritage asset. We have come a long way in a short space of time, establishing a presence with Historic England, St. Helens Council and the community in St.Helens, and developing a Friends of Cannington Shaw Facebook Page. We are about to establish a Cannington Shaw Preservation Trust and independent ‘Friends of’ Group and will be submitting an application to the Charity Commission this week. The Trust will have joint charitable status as we move forward with our goal of becoming a Charitable Incorporated Organisation.
I genuinely look forward to continuing in my role as Project Manager and becoming a future Trustee of the Cannington Shaw Preservation Trust. Challenging times lie ahead as we move forward with our discussions with the owners of the site which is currently in private ownership. Surveys will need to be undertaken to establish the extent of the structure’s deterioration and ability to regenerate. As a Trust we will need to develop a Fundraising Strategy. The lessons of recent Heritage conferences will be timely and fruitful.
I have also been lucky to work with Litherland Methodist Mission in Litherland, Sefton. For the last six months I have been assisting the Church Council in writing a Heritage Lottery Fund Business Plan for the £1.2m renovation of the Albert Walker Hall.
The building is an iconic structure in South Sefton, a gem in the heart of a severely deprived area which has been the willing recipient of consecutive regeneration funding programmes. The Linacre Ward is the most deprived ward in the whole of Sefton.
It is first and foremost a Church and place of worship. It is also a vibrant community and neighbourhood centre, valued by the community and key stakeholders alike, and the Church are moving forward with their ambition to restore the Albert Walker Hall which is currently derelict, unsafe for public access.
The Hall has the ability to house over 300 people. It used to be the home of the Church’s Sunday School and is representative of Linacre Mission’s place at the heart of the economic and social history of Litherland. Restoration will consolidate the Church as a beacon and a community, neighbourhood, cultural and heritage facility. It will become a place of learning where visitors can see restoration in action through hard hat tours, schools and interest groups can learn about the Victorian and Edwardian era, and people can participate in bespoke courses such as ceramics and tile making.
Plans are due to be submitted to Heritage Lottery Fund for consideration. Exciting times lie ahead. I look forward to seeing restoration taking place during 2016.