Croxteth Hall and Country Park looks set to remain under the control of Liverpool City Council despite undergoing a procurement process to find an external operator.
The local authority has now announced it is to launch a new investment drive to transform the historic country house estate into a major tourist attraction.
The council, which has recently launched a new commercial approach to its parks, is aiming to develop the former home to the Earls of Sefton (who founded the Grand National) based along the National Trust model.
A report to the council’s cabinet this Friday (23 March) will recommend the authority undergoes a major repair programme to the Grade II*-listed house as well funding and developing a raft of income generating measures, including:
- A new food, drink and hospitality provision
- Developing the current wedding market
- Operating more frequent events including concerts, seasonal fairs and artisan markets
- Improve facilities for car parking for both day-to-day park users and those attending events
The hall and country park, which also accommodates an adventure playground, gift shop, aerial rope adventure course, horse riding centre and café, currently attracts in excess of 600,000 visits a year but these numbers could double under the new plan.
The city council already successfully manages historic buildings including the town hall and St George’s Hall, and in recent years has grown the events programme through a range of cultural activities from Disney Pixar animation to Christmas markets.
As part of this invest to earn strategy the council will establish a new team of event, commercial and marketing professionals to maximise the impact of the investment and turn the 500 acre estate, which also boasts Liverpool’s largest park, into a profit-making attraction.
Another key appointment will be an estate manager responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operation of the site including repair, maintenance and refurbishment of assets, managing relationships with existing and new tenants, leases and commercial uses on the site.
At the moment the estate costs the council approximately £1m a year, set against an annual income of £600,000, and the report recommends a fund be established to carry out the works.
Discussions are also underway to relocate Myerscough College to a new educational centre which will free up 44 rooms and enable the council to further develop commercial events within the hall.
The college, which has use of the walled garden and the stable yard café, is also currently developing a new animal and equine educational centre.
Councillor Steve Munby, cabinet member for city services, says: “On behalf of the council, the hall’s trustees and local community and voluntary groups I would like to thank the bidders for their time and effort.
“They provided detailed but very different proposals to operate the hall and park with both bids having different strengths and weaknesses.
“It was clear they had put considerable thought into how they could satisfy the complex challenges this unique concession required.
“I fully appreciate they will be disappointed not to be given the opportunity to manage the estate but this new commercialisaiton approach to our parks has negated the need for an external operator at Croxteth.
“The fact we are undergoing huge cuts to its services has led to a radical rethink of how we run many of our services including our parks. Having already transformed the fortunes of St George’s Hall and the town hall fills me with confidence that we can achieve great things at Croxteth to ensure it is enjoyed for generations to come.
“Croxteth Hall and Country Park is the unpolished jewel in this city’s crown and it has become increasingly clear that the economic case for the council to retain the estate, invest in its offer, build a team and promote the events was the approach that made the most sense.
“Our focus now is to explore and develop the exciting opportunities to expand the attraction of numerous spaces around the estate whilst providing the amenities visitors expect when visiting a country house estate of this stature.”
Once plans for the visitor and commercial strategy are developed a further report to cabinet will follow with appropriate detailed business cases.