Plans for replacement nightclub are scrapped. No reason given

A pledge to build a new club in Wolstenholme Square, to replace legendary nightclub Cream, has been dropped.

Three years ago, when developers were finally given the go-ahead to completely demolish and regenerate what possibly Liverpool’s last unspoilt cobbled square, the late inclusion of a new basement club was seen as a consolation for destroying two of the city’s most famous nightlife assets.

Cream club nights, which took place inside the square's Nation venue, once attracted visitors from across the world. 

The neighbouring Kazimier Club, home to perhaps the most significant and vibrant arts collective remaining in Liverpool city centre, was bulldozed at the same time.

Work is already advanced on the reshaping of Wolstenholme Square with a development of high rise residential blocks.

Now an application has been submitted to the city council’s planning department to amend the original, agreed blueprint.

Developer Wolstenholme Square Developments Limited wants to change the scheme and scrap the promised basement club altogether. No reason has been given for the change.

Wolstenholme Square just before demolition in 2016. Picture: Angie Sammons

Wolstenholme Square today. Picture: Angie Sammons

Despite opposition from the three local councillors, including front bench cabinet member Steve Munby, the planning officers are recommending the committee to give the go-ahead to the changes, saying they “overcome previous concerns about the potential conflict between residential and late night uses”.

Cllr Munby, and ward colleagues Michelle Corrigan and Hetty Wood, have each objected to the application saying the proposals represent a fundamental change to the original scheme which conflict with the Ropewalks Planning Framework. 

They also say the changes threaten massive damage to the city by what it now emerges is the permanent removal of Cream.

Nation, with the saw mill, which was destroyed in an arson attack, just glimpsed to the rear. Picture: Angie Sammons

The same site now. Picture: Angie Sammons

Before bulldozers declared war on the historic square it was occupied by what the official report describes as a series of post war, low level, warehouse-type buildings along the northern side, which housed the two nightclubs, as well as a historic, three-storey saw mill at the very eastern end of the site at 5 Parr Street. The original plans saw the mill building, in a conservation area, earmarked for redevelopment as a music venue. However it fell victim to a mysterious arson attack 18 months ago and was subsequently demolished by developer Eliott Group "on health and safety grounds".

As well as the the removal of the basement nightclub, the proposed changes to the scheme involve the deletion of the saw mill building from the original plans and the temporary landscaping of the vacant plot which is now subject to a separate planning application for a seven storey hotel.

The revised development, as now proposed, would comprise four new buildings with staggered heights varying from seven to 10 storeys. These buildings contain 448 units of residential accommodation above ground-floor commercial units.

A number of local residents have commented on the amended scheme, some expressing concerns and describing the deletion of the planned club as a “huge shame as this was an important asset to the city’s cultural identity”.

Others say the proposals lack character and are not sufficiently sensitive to the historic and culturally sensitive location this site occupies.

“The flats are bland, unbelievably small and poorly designed and will only create small, poor quality, generic accommodation suitable for the buy-to-let market rather than for couples or families,” says another local resident.

The planning department in its assessment adds that a significant concern with the original application was the future of Cream and Kazimier which occupied part of the site, and the potential conflict caused by introducing residential accommodation into an area zoned for late night entertainment.  

The original application was approved only after changes were made to accommodate a basement nightclub to replace Cream/Nation and a new music venue in the former Saw Mill building, at 5 Parr Street, which was demolished without authorisation. 

In their conclusion the planners say when completed the scheme will substantially change the character of that part of Ropewalks into a modern mixed use area containing ground floor bars and restaurants with a substantial residential offer above.

The planning officer adds:  “Whilst concern has been expressed for very understandable reasons about the loss of two valuable assets to the city’s cultural offer, the omission of these elements of the scheme is outside the control of the local planning authority. The proposals as amended still provide for the re-development of the site and deliver the economic benefits that the previous scheme achieved. The changes also overcome previous concerns about the potential conflict between residential and late night uses.”