Two Liverpool schools to move into iconic Littlewoods building

TWO schools are set to be built within Liverpool’s iconic Littlewoods building.

The iconic art deco building, within Edge Lane’s new Innovation Park, was built by the Pools firm’s founders in 1938, but has sat empty for years.

But now the building is set to “be saved” and become the home of two Liverpool high schools as part of a £348m overhaul of the city’s secondaries by 2013. Last night it was confirmed city planners will be asked to authorise the construction of two schools within the building – with Liverpool Council pledging to ensure its historical features are preserved.

It would pave the way for two Church of England secondaries – Aigburth’s St Margaret’s and city-centre Archbishop Blanch to co-locate to the site.

The £45m building project is designed to boost the overall regeneration of the area.

And by forging links with the park’s 40 businesses, it is hoped would provide a raft of vocational opportunities and dovetail with the schools’ technology specialisms.

With governors’ blessing, St Hilda’s CE high would transfer from its outdated base in Sefton Park to the St Margaret’s site under the plans.

Although the Innovation Park move is backed by the Diocese, governors at St Margaret’s say they “cannot support a move to Edge Lane” – preferring the two schools’ home to be on the Aigburth site.

Last night Tim Warren, the council’s assistant education director, stressed nothing was “a done deal” but in order to submit water-tight plans before the government next month – planning permission was needed now.

And he said he was “hopeful” governors at St Margaret’s would back the plans during ongoing consultation.

The two schools would operate as separate entities but with access to a shared sixth form.

Stressing the benefits of the proposed move, Mr Warren said: “This will allow two schools to not only have excellent provision but allow them to develop their skills – here we have two technology specialists who would be in the epicentre of a science park.”

If the proposals is to go ahead, the council said major traffic problems are not foreseen with pupils accessing the park off Edge Lane and buses to help children get to the school, likely to be offered.

Mark Tock, Innovation Manager at Liverpool Innovation Park, said the move would “save” the Littlewoods building.

He told the Daily Post: “Establishing a cluster of excellence for science and technology education next to Liverpool’s Innovation Park will be an exciting investment in Liverpool’s intellectual capital.”

He added: “Another new well-designed building will be a boost to Edge Lane’s regeneration. It will save the visually-impressive Littlewoods building and improve the aesthetics of the main gateway into the city centre.”

The Innovation Park plan forms part of a £500million Building Schools for the Future programme to rebuild or refurbish secondary schools across the city by 2017.

Cllr Keith Turner, Liverpool council’s executive member for education said: “This programme will raise education standards in Liverpool even further.

“It will make our schools available to the local community, ensuring residents can benefit from all of the state-of-the-art facilities and enhance their own learning skills and qualifications.”

Subject to approval work on the schools could begin by 2011

THE History of the iconic Littlewoods building is one of trail-blazing ambition to hopeful salvation.

The art deco headquarters opened in 1938, as John Moores’ pools business reached the zenith it would maintain well into the 1960s and 70s.

The ocean liner design is a classic example of the period, and the clean lines and fresh architecture served as a symbol of the company’s intentions.

Brought to life by architect, Gerald de Coursy Fraser, it soon became iconic throughout the city.

This, coupled with its position on one of the highest plateaux in Liverpool, with views across Wirral to the Welsh mountains, should have made a it a prime development project as the National Lottery drove down the profitability of the Littlewoods’ scheme and the building became vacant.

Urban Splash won the tender when the Liverpool Land Development Company (LLDC) invited a “bold vision” in 2005, as part of ongoing regeneration efforts around Edge Lane.

The innovative firm tabled plans to transform the shell into a £60m digital village, complete with 275 high-spec apartments and hotel element.

But that was shelved in 2008, as Urban Splash reacted to the unsettled property market.