This morning I had a meeting with Malcolm Kennedy and senior officers of the Regeneration Department of the Council.
We agreed the following way forward:
1. That the Council will take responsibility for bringing the building up to a point where it will have a 20 year life without any major repairs. The Council will also introduce basic facilities such as toilets, a kitchen and a power base. It will look to do this from its own funds and by applying to the Heritage Lottery Fund and other bodies.
2. The Council will conduct a consultation exercise with anyone who wants to contribute to the discussion on the future of the Church during August.
3. At minimum this consultation will consist of:
• A questionnaire on Liverpool Express which will be widely disseminated
• Cllr Kennedy and myself being available for two days on a Friday and Saturday at the Church to discuss ideas with anyone and with written copies of the questionnaire available.
4. Hopefully there will be other means of consultation through the media and in particular Radio Merseyside.
5. The consultation will be open ended and nothing will be ruled out in terms of the discussions. There will however be a presumption that any proposals must accept the nature of the building not only in terms of its listing but also as a memorial to the civilian dead of WWII and the Irish Famine.
6. The results of the consultation will be incorporated into an ‘opportunity brief’ which will be widely circulated throughout the city and wider. The brief will invite organisations or groups of organisations to create an “Expression of Interest” indicating their suggestions for the future use of the building. This expression will need to be accompanied by a proto business plan indicating the experience of the organisation and its individuals and the sources of the funding needed as working capital for any venture.
7. The Council will seek to choose a successful tenderer by the end of December with a view to giving that organisation preferred bidder status and a 6 months period to complete its business plan and prepare for a take-over of operations on the site during the summer.
8. The council will not be obliged to accept any of the bids and might choose either to accept none of the organisations or to combine 2 or more bids to achieve the result that is closest to the results of the consultation exercise and the practicalities and constraints of the building and funding sources.
9. Cllr Kennedy and I will make a recommendation to the Mayor which will then be put through normal council processes of challenge and scrutiny and all decisions will be dealt with in a transparent fashion.
In essence this exercise will replicate, where possible, the way forward that was adopted for the Mansion House in Calderstones Park where there was a great cooperation between local councillors, Malcolm and the local community as to a way forward.
We would also like to give an assurance that at this stage there is no preferred bidder. Each application will be considered on its merits according to the criteria established through the consultation exercise.
The meeting was extremely positive and both Cllr Kennedy and I believe that this approach will safeguard the long term future of the Church whilst respecting the unique role it has in reminding us of dark days in the history of our city.