ShedKM is hoping its plans to convert Liverpool’s Littlewoods Pools building into a film studio complex won’t be ended by the huge blaze that took hold of the iconic structure last night (2 September)
The practice was on the verge of working up a planning application for the Capital & Centric backed overhaul before the major fire.
Firefighters were this morning still tackling flames at the site, having been called to the incident shortly before 8pm on Sunday.
Six fire engines attended the scene as flames engulfed up to 40 per cent of the 1938 Art Deco landmark. At one stage a 20,000m2 area was said to be on fire from the first floor upwards.
ShedKM has been working for six years on plans to redevelop the Littlewoods Pools building, with Capital & Centric this summer releasing images and details of a £50 million ‘Hollywood standard’ film scheme.
The project boasted two 1,850m2 sound stages alongside supporting workshops; wardrobe and prop storage; offices; and other facilities. Twickenham Studios was named as an anchor tenant.
Practice director Mark Sidebotham told the AJ this morning that he was hoping to receive the commission to submit an updated planning application “very, very soon”.
Sidebotham said he was waiting to hear and see later today exactly how bad the damage was from the fire, but had reason to be hopeful.
’The two film studios for Twickenham Studios will be new-build on adjacent land, with the East Wing of the existing building used for support accommodation,” he said.
’It appears the West Wing has had most of the damage. There is a robust concrete hangar in the middle and we hope that has helped stop the fire from spreading to the East Wing.’
The fire-damaged West Wing was earmarked for smaller studios as well as office and education space, the AJ understands. The central space was dedicated to retail and food facilities to create a community hub for up to 500 workers at the complex.
Two multi-agency emergency meetings took place last night, attended by police and fire chiefs, the developers, councillors and others. A structural engineer assessed the scene and as of 1.30am today had no concerns about the integrity of the structure. Capital & Centric co-founder Adam Higgins today declared he was ’extremely hopeful’ of saving the structure.
’Last night was extremely difficult for our team, the city and the many thousands with a connection to this landmark building,’ said Higgins. ’Our heartfelt thanks go out to the fire service, who battled throughout the night to save as much as they could.
’While there is damage to the floor and roof, the walls of the west wing and overall structure seem intact. We’ll know more once we can get inside, but we’re extremely hopeful that we’ll be able to save the iconic structure that people see from Edge Lane.
’The building is so important to the social heritage of Liverpool and has always been at the heart of our plans to create a hub for TV and film. We won’t let this put us off.
’The city’s outpouring of good will for our restoration plans has floored us. This is a setback, but we won’t let it hamper our ambitions for Littlewoods to be the home of Liverpool’s creative industries.’
Merseyside Fire and Rescue Services area manager Paul Murphy said: ‘This has been a significant fire and extremely difficult for our crews to deal with, due to the size of the building. However, crews have worked extremely hard to battle this fire and have prevented it from spreading into the remainder of such an iconic building.
‘It has been a challenging incident but we are in a position with the council where we feel the structural integrity of the building may remain intact.’
Save Britain’s Heritage has described the Littlewoods Pools building - once home to the football predictions craze that swept the nation - as ‘probably’ designed by Scottish architect Gerald de Courcey Fraser.
Over the years several attempts have been made to overhaul the abandoned landmark.
Local practice ShedKM originally drew up plans in the mid-Noughties to convert the structure into a ‘digital village’ featuring 250 apartments, a 100-bedroom hotel, offices, shops, leisure space and a crèche.
Capital & Centric’s concept plans with Twickenham Studios for the Littlewoods Building - June 2018