Council seeks operator for Croxteth Hall and Park

A EUROPE-wide search has been launched to find an operator to manage Liverpool’s Croxteth Hall and Country Park. Liverpool City Council has published a tender with the European Journal (OJEU) to find a partner to manage the historic estate on behalf of the authority. The tender, which would see the hall and Liverpool’s only country park remain open to the public, aims to secure new investment, increase activities and visitor numbers and save the council £1m a year in running costs. Bids will be overseen by a panel including local stakeholders: the Friends of Croxteth Park, Croxteth Hall Volunteers and the West Derby Society alongside council officers and elected members. Liverpool City Council, which has already undertaken a soft marketing exercise to gauge interest, are looking to undertake a staged procurement process leading to a winning bidder.  The new contract commencement is currently estimated as February 2018 with the new operator taking over the management of the estate from this date. The estate, which covers just over 500 acres featuring the the Grade II* listed Hall, Croxteth Home Farm, a Victorian Walled Garden and the park itself – Liverpool’s largest – had been the stately home of the Molyneux family, the Earls of Sefton, since 1575, but has been in public ownership since 1972. The hall and country park, which also accommodates an adventure playground, gift shop, aerial rope adventure course, horse riding centre and café, attracts in excess of 600,000 visits a year and the council has branched out to create income by promoting the hall as a setting for weddings, films, conferences, exhibitions and concerts. The tender will not affect a £3.5m plan by Myerscough College, who provide further education to local young people on the site, to create a new animal and equine centre on the site of the former grounds maintenance depot.  Home Farm will also continue to be operated by the Neighbourhood Services Company (NSC). Councillor Steve Munby, Cabinet Member for neighbourhoods, said: “Croxteth Hall and Country Park is a jewel in Liverpool’s crown and we need to get the management of its future absolutely right. “This a very complex estate containing multiple dwellings, covenants and leases with a whole raft of conditions limiting what can and cannot be done. “Those interested parties who are looking to submit a bid are going to need a lot of time to understand the inner workings of the estate and what the stakeholders are looking for to ensure their proposed business plan is workable and deliverable. “I look forward to working with the stakeholders in Croxteth Park on this process and we are determined to find a sustainable solution for the estate, and take care to get it right.” Councillor Peter Mitchell, Mayoral lead for parks, said: “The preservation of Croxteth Hall and Park as a public asset, with free public access, is our number one priority and after years of searching for a partner we are very close to securing a win-win situation. “The estate has been enjoyed by millions of people for generations and holds a unique place in the city’s heart, so it is vital we have the voice of the community at our side when we come to choosing the new stewards of this estate. “We’ve been hugely encouraged by the interest in the estate and we look forward to assessing exciting plans that will breathe new life into one of Liverpool’s finest crown jewels.” Stephen Guy, West Derby Society chairman, who will sit on the selection panel, said: “We hope this initiative can secure the future of Croxteth Hall. Many parts of this historic building, dating from Tudor to Edwardian times, are in urgent need of refurbishment. This is Liverpool’s own stately home and has enormous significance in its cultural history. “The Molyneux family were in Liverpool continuously for more than 900 years – from the Norman Conquest to the 1970s. Hugh Molyneux, 7th and last Earl of Sefton, left the people of Liverpool a wonderful legacy which we cherish. “The new partner must recognise the special place Croxteth Hall and Country Park hold in the hearts and minds of our citizens.”