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Friday, October 28, 2011

Heseltine & Leahy on rebranding the Liverpool City Region


Former Tesco CEO and advisor to Everton, Sir Terry Leahy, and the RT Hon the Lord Heseltine, have co-authored a report which considers the opportunities for growth in the City Region over the next two decades.

The report highlights building on the existing strengths of the area with specific reference,amongst many other things, to Everton and Liverpool Football Clubs, other sporting events, tourism and the convention & conference market.

The report suggests that Liverpool is not the source of despair it once was: since 2000, Liverpool's economy has grown faster than that of the UK and is ideally placed to build on its recent successful regeneration initiatives.

Evertonians will know that KEIOC and our counterparts across the park, The Spirit of Shankly, have jointly developed and promoted the concept of The Football Quarter which is a designated area in and around Stanley Park which comprises two football stadia and 40 acres of land dedicated to educational, recreational, leisure and community facilities designed not only to promote business and regeneration but also to aid in the transformation of Anfield, Walton, the City and the immediate region.

UK and international evidence suggests that regeneration waves are initiated and executed by charismatic, talented and committed local leaders. Regeneration waves require stimulus, and these include high profile and often significant events and investments that change the perception of a place. They will typically come from the public sector but will be collaborators who can empower and harness other leaders, for example in the business community, voluntary sector, faith groups etc.

Critically, good quality local leadership will work co-operatively but assertively with central Government, representing an area in a constructive, hard-headed and consistent manner. There is evidence that private sector investors in particular are influenced by consistent civic leadership, and, given choice, prefer to invest in places with a shared vision rather than in places with a more contested or changeable attitude to growth.

Government can also kick-start new regeneration waves with significant locational decisions it influences, funds or endorses, for example with the BBC move to Manchester/Salford, a £900m national investment that had an immediate transformative impact not just on Salford but on property values and investor confidence across Greater Manchester. Another vital asset in creating and sustaining the next regeneration wave will be a good supply of commercial premises.

Business growth that does not reach the most deprived areas of North Liverpool, South Sefton and the Wirral will be a wasted opportunity. Each of these areas is very close to concentrations of unemployment, deprivation and inactivity, and it is important that the business, public and voluntary sectors work together to get local people of North Liverpool and South Sefton involved, providing the right skills and right knowledge, confidence and contacts to get some of the new jobs in the Enterprise Zone.

On the positive side, the city has a high and growing profile overseas that assists with tourism, inward investment and in the international conference and convention market. Centres of sporting excellence including football at Anfield and Everton, Aintree race course, and the Royal Birkdale and Royal Liverpool golf courses.

Tourism is an important and growing industry for Liverpool and the wider region, with an estimated value of around £1.3 billion a year. It directly supports about 23,000 jobs, creates increased passenger patronage (eg for the local airport and on train routes into the city, helping maintain demand for frequencies), and generates vital ticket sales for cultural and sporting events. Current forecasts are that tourism could be worth over £2bn by 2020.

The opportunities present in Liverpool, whilst importantly unique, are not without precedent elsewhere in the world. Tourisme de Barcelona brought all the relevant public and private sector interests together to develop and market the visitor offer, and demonstrated that it is possible to exploit natural attractions strongly by this approach. While Liverpool doesn’t have the weather that Barcelona enjoys, it has other assets that are attracting growing numbers of European weekend visitors and the potential is there for significant expansion with the right co-ordination and marketing.

The aforementioned supporters groups firmly believe that the unique opportunity offered by the combination of the location of the city’s football clubs, their history, a unique history in terms of the birth of a single club that became the city’s famous duopoly, and being the country’s most successful footballing city lends itself perfectly to develop a designated area just three miles from the regions centre within which our football clubs can flourish.

Whilst this concept has been almost three years in the making others have understood and embraced the idea that sport and football can act as an anchor for regeneration and prosperity. Manchester City’s owners have put together an ambitious plan to redevelop swathes of former industrial land around the Etihad stadium, Shimizu S- Pulse Football Club, located in Shimizu-ku, Shizuoka, in Shizouka Prefecture Japan, which has an area dedicated to the team, you can read about this in a report from Liverpool University, here, and the proposal for another Sports City in India, the Kolkata Sports City, seen here on the right, which will be amongst the largest integrated sports complexes, in India; offering commercial and residential areas is the first fully integrated sports centre that provides one-stop sports and recreational experience. It's wide variety of sporting facilities include a sheltered Olympic size Pool, state-of-the-art Gym, an ultra modern Stadium, Sports Hall, Tennis Courts, etc and can be seen here. No matter how much money is spent on these projects there is one aspect that money simply can’t buy, history; and the history of football is essentially the history of football in our city.

Another aspect the report touches on is that the so-called ‘Liverpolitan Diaspora’ should be provided with a formal structure and opportunity to help their home city region with investment leads, expertise, advice and intelligence. Many of these people retain not only relatives or friends in the city region but possess an abiding loyalty and affection for the place. Perhaps more so than for some other places, Liverpool seems to be a place that its sons and daughters retain a passion for. In some this manifests itself in terms of supporting a football club, but others want to do more.

The full report can be downloaded here.

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