Sunday, 5 June 2011

And we never walk down Lime Street anymore?

The first I ever heard of Lime Street was on The Beatles "Let it Be" album where the greatest rock and roll band the world has ever known gave their angle on the classic Liverpool song, Maggie Mae. I learned that Maggie used to walk along Lime Street and had been arrested for robbing a sailor but I had no idea at that time that Lime Street was the gateway to the city for anyone arriving by train. It was when I first visited Liverpool in the early 1970's to attend an interview for a place at teacher training college that I discovered its importance.Whether for people from outside of Liverpool it was the railway station or The Beatles that made this one of the most famous streets in the city could make a good pub discussion, possibly at the magnificent structure of The Vines further along this famous Liverpool thoroughfare.

The Vines

When one arrives in Liverpool and leaves the station concourse one discovers that the station is quite different from most main city railway stations. You glance to your right along Lime Street and see the magnificent St George's Hall and directly facing you is the entrance to the main retail area bounded by St John's shopping centre on the right and the beginning of Clayton Square on the left. You have been brought right into the heart of the city.

However if you look further along Lime Street to the left it all becomes a lot less impressive. The first thing you see is the Grade 2 listed art deco former ABC Cinema which has been empty for a number of years. Four years ago Urban Splash were appointed as preferred developers by English Partnerships. The plan was to turn the the building into a Boutique Hotel. Four years later, despite their stated continued commitment to the project, the developers have been unable to progress the scheme to transform this fantastic structure. Between this building and The Vines there is little to convince the new visitor, without further evidence, that Liverpool has undergone a transformation over its recent history. If the visitor continued further along the road into Renshaw Street they would notice another fabulous building, the famous Lewis's Department Store with the " statue exceeedingly bare" still in place. One of Liverpool's most famous landmarks it now lies empty. In addition, the premises 200 yards further up Renshaw Street, formerly the home of one of Liverpool's most famous retailers, Rapid Hardware, have been left vacant by their move into the heart of Liverpool's main retail area.

It is problems like this that the City Centre Retail Strategy has been drawn up to address. There will not be the scale of development in the retail area as we have experienced in the city centre in the last decade, not only because there is less finance available but also because there simply is not the need for that scale of development anymore. However the Lime Street Gateway remains a prime development opportunity and in serious need of transformation. The Retail Strategy therefore makes this a high priority and I have made it clear that I want to see early action to address an area that should enhance and not subtract from the impression given to visitors arriving at Lime Street. Maggie Mae might not walk down there anymore but we want many visitors and Liverpool residents to be tempted by other and better attractions to take a walk down one of Liverpool's most famous streets.

The Executive Summary of the Strategy can be downloaded at

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