Big plans for city shopping centre and iconic Strawberry Field approved

Big plans to turn the upper floors of Liverpool’s Metquarter into a music and performing college, and for a new visitor attraction at the city’s iconic Strawberry Field, have been approved by the city council.

Members of the council’s planning committee on Tuesday approved massive changes that would see Liverpool Music Academy move into to the top two floors of the shopping centre, as well as proposals for a new bandstand at Strawberry Field that will pave the way for a host of live music events.

The Metquarter opened in 2006 but has struggled with high vacancy rates amid intense competition in the city centre.

Meanwhile, LMA has expanded rapidly since its founding in 2009, with 760 students now on its role, the Local Democracy Service reports.

The Robbie Williams co-owned college, currently based on Duke Street offers courses in film and television, games animation, acting, dance, musical theatre and music.

The plans would see recording studios, practice rooms and classrooms built in parts of the Metquarter that currently house retail units.

Speaking this morning on behalf of Metquarter owner Queensbury, representative Giulia Bunting said LMA’s plans would help address a long term challenge in letting space, adding that management had concluded there was no prospect of the upper floors of the centre being let for retail use in the long term.

Ms Bunting said: “This current proposal is seeking to address those challenges.

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“It presents a brilliant opportunity to find an expanded space for LMA.”

Speaking before the plans were passed, Richard Wallace, one of LMA’s co-founders,said the centre was the ideal location for a campus.

He said: “Not only is it right in the heart of the city centre, but the building itself gives us a lot of freedom to create an extremely unique learning space where our students can study and hone their craft.

Robbie Williams and LMA Choir
Robbie Williams and LMA Choir
(Image: Liverpool Echo)

“There is a lot of potential for what we can do at the site to help inspire students and give them unique opportunities to explore their passion and creativity, whether that’s on stage or screen, behind the camera, in the recording studio or creating the next big gaming sensation.”

The Metquarter has struggled in recent years but it is hoped that a 2018 revamp of the centre in 2018, which saw the boutique Everyman Cinema open, as well as LMA’s plans, will help it secure its future.

Councillors also gave the green light to a new bandstand at Strawberry Fields.

Strawberry Fields visitor Centre and Exhibition is one of two Liverpool developments shortlisted for an architecture award
(Image: Gavin Trafford)

The Salvation Army had applied to build the new bandstand in order to host a range of live music events throughout the year and enhance a new visitor centre.

Strawberry Field is internationally famous thanks to the Beatles’ 1967 hit, Strawberry Fields Forever, and has been maintained by the Salvation Army since the 1930s.

The visitor centre and cafe there opened to the public last year.

A report attached to the planning application says the bandstand is proposed to help provide an “immersive experience” to visitors.

The report says: “The applicant, The Salvation Army, intend that the proposed bandstand would on occasion have music played from the structure but which is only audible by headphones to paying visitors to provide an immersive ‘Strawberry Field’ experience.

“Artists would perform in the bandstand and visitors would be able to hire headphones to enhance their visit.

“In addition to this, The Salvation Army also propose for the bandstand to host further live ‘audible’ music events up to eight times a year.”

Those proposed music events include events around Christmas, Pentecost and Easter as well as on John Lennon’s Birthday and during Beatles Week..

Five objections to the plan were received from neighbours, mainly on the basis of noise disruption, but the planning committee backed the proposals, which limit the performances to between 12pm and 7pm.

As well as Liverpool’s Strawberry Field, New York’s Central Park also has a Strawberry Fields, established as a memorial to John Lennon after he was shot dead outside his apartment in the city in 1980.

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