Site could be 'symbol of city's rebirth' Festival site inquiry ends.
DEVELOPMENT of the former Garden Festival site should go ahead as a "priority" otherwise the city would be "wasting a resource", a planning inquiry was told yesterday.
But campaigners against building more than 1,300 houses on the Otterspool site said the work would concrete over a "beautiful and valuable place".
The comments came during the closing statements of the fourweek inquiry into whether developer Langtree McLean should be allowed to regenerate the site left derelict since 1984.
Summing up the firms' case, Stephen Sauvain, QC, said: "The condition of the site now is that it is plainly in need of regeneration and restoration.
"The fact that a large part of the site has subsequently fallen into disuse, neglect and dereliction and has attracted vandalismand anti-social behaviour point to a waste of a resource which it should now be a priority to remedy."
Permission was granted in May last year to build 1,308 flats and 66 individual houses but the then Local Government Minister, Ruth Kelly, called the application in to an inquiry.
Campaigners from Save the Festival Gardens SFG are worried the environmental impact of the plans will drive wildlife away and spoil the Mersey promenade.
SFG spokesperson David Morton also claimed the plans were unsustainable and would impact on regeneration in nearby Dingle.
He said: "Development would destroy an important woodland habitat. Development will damage Liverpool's proud waterfront.
"And hopes for developments in different areas of opportunity would be frozen out."
Mr Morton claimed Finger Blocks - 8-storey blocks of flats - overlooking the estuary would "severely reduce the character of this extremely popular public amenity".
As well as building homes, Langtree McLean has offered to pay the Land Restoration Trust pounds 4.9m to landscape the grounds, including restoring the Oriental gardens to their former glory, and will provide a pounds 2m dowry for the their upkeep.
Liverpool City Council told the inquiry it hoped the scheme would symbolise the city's rebirth.
Solicitor Alan Evans said: "Previous efforts to bring the site back into productive use have had a sad history of failure.
"A restored site would provide a key focal point for the whole of the Mersey waterfront and act as a symbol of a Liverpool which had turned the economic corner.
"The proposals will act as a high-profile symbol of rebirth."