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Recycled landfill soil breathes new life into forgotten green lung

One of Liverpool’s forgotten green lungs – regenerated from the recycled soil of a former landfill site – has opened to the public today (Monday, 7 August).

A unique 24 acre recreational area, called Southern Grasslands, has been created as a result of a massive remediation programme to lay the foundations for a potential new housing scheme at the nearby Festival Gardens development zone.

It is the largest transformed urban green space opened in Liverpool in the 21st century – and one of the largest in England – and is almost five times as big as Chavasse Park in Liverpool ONE.

Situated just three miles south of Liverpool city centre, Southern Grasslands was officially opened by Mayor Steve Rotheram and Liverpool City Council’s Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods, Cllr Laura Robertson-Collins.

Over the past two years more than 400,000 cubic metres of soil and waste has been removed from the Festival Gardens development zone, land that was used as a waste deposit facility for more than 30 years.

More than 95% of this material has been recycled including 100,000 cubic metres of earth that has created what will become an eco-haven for wildlife.

The radically re-landscaped green space, which now rises by more than 30 feet to provide views of the city centre and across the River Mersey to North Wales, also features more than 5,700 new trees and shrubs as well as 2km of walking paths near to the shoreline.

The planting has involved the formation of new areas of woodland and meadow to create new habitats and to enrich the biodiversity in this unique coastal environment. This includes wildlife corridors to boost the population of insects, butterflies and bees.

Situated just a ten minute walk to St Michael’s train station, Southern Grassland also contains a series of new public benches and picnic tables. The ambitious redesign means people will also have dedicated paths to the Festival Gardens park for the first time since it was famously opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1984, as part of the International Garden Festival.

The Council’s principal contractor, VINCI Building, began work to dramatically transform the former landfill site and Southern Grasslands in early 2021.

The mammoth excavation programme, which has been shortlisted for a national Brownfield Award, has also included an additional £6m programme of ground infrastructure works to lay drainage and construct a substation to provide power supply for the future development.

The package of works has been jointly funded by Liverpool City Council, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, Homes England and OFGEM.

Access to the rejuvenated site is also possible now through Riverside Drive, which now has Liverpool’s first ‘sparrow crossing’, which enables cyclists and pedestrians to cross the road using separate lanes.

Access from the river front, on Otterspool Promenade, has also been improved with new resurfacing, railings and art installations, providing an enhanced entrance into the Festival Gardens site for pedestrians and cyclists.

Southern Grasslands is also serviced by a new car park which will ensure it is accessible for people with mobility issues.

Liverpool City Council is seeking to appoint a development partner for the Festival Garden development zone, which covers 28 acres of prime waterfront land. This exercise will launch in Spring 2024. There will be further announcements on this exceptional development opportunity later this year.

Following the appointment of a developer, a major housing scheme for potentially up to 1,500 homes is predicted to begin in 2025 following the relevant planning application process.

Cllr Laura Robertson-Collins, Liverpool City Council’s Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods, said: “The opening of the Southern Grasslands is a watershed moment in both the story of our famous Festival Gardens site and in Liverpool’s journey to tackle climate change.

“It’s creation marks the end of a truly monumental two-year long process to excavate the nearby development zone – and is testament to how nature and wildlife can benefit from development when we put our minds to it. I applaud everyone involved for the work that has gone into making this dream a reality.

“Repurposing the soil from a former landfill site to create an eco-haven is a story wildlife campaigners dream of. This is the ultimate win-win. Liverpool is gaining not just a potential new housing scheme but a year-round recreational space which will also act as a huge new carbon sink and which will benefit our unique coastal bio-diversity for decades to come.

“And by forming a natural extension to Festival Gardens park and Otterspool Promenade for cyclists and pedestrians to use and enjoy, Southern Grasslands will be a truly special asset for us all to celebrate.”

Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, said: “The Festival Gardens site holds a special place in the hearts of many Scousers, but it has been left to go to rack and ruin by decades of private sector failure. It is only through devolution, with a metro mayor working in partnership with Liverpool City Council that we can put that right.

“Our funding is helping to transform the Festival Gardens into a public asset once more and laying the groundwork for homes to be built. Rather than a forgotten wasteland playing home to dumping, this new grassland should be home to a thriving community of new homeowners.”

Rob Symons, Contracts Manager at VINCI Building, said: “VINCI Building are proud of the work that has been achieved at Southern Grasslands, taking this historic waterfront site, and transforming it for future use whilst enhancing the wildlife and natural wellbeing of the area for the local residents of south Liverpool. Working collaboratively with Liverpool City Council, our Specialist Subcontractor (Vertase FLi), and numerous other stakeholders, we have delivered a lasting legacy for this part of Liverpool.

“Our methods of working enabled the recovered waste materials from the historic land fill to be recycled and re-processed in numerous ways avoiding the need to go back into landfill elsewhere, whilst sorting all engineering fill from these wastes and using them to create the development zone. Any unsuitable fills were transferred via a riverside haul route to avoid congestion on local roads.

“These unsuitable engineering materials create the shaped landforms standing proud within the Southern Grasslands. These mounds have been carefully landscaped to increase the biodiversity of this whole area, providing a long lasting benefit for the local communities use.”