Iconic Liverpool Littlewoods Building ravaged by blaze

Littlewoods building

Firefighters were still damping down a blaze this morning in one of Liverpool’s most iconic buildings which had been earmarked to become the ‘Hollywood of the North’ in a £50m conversion as new film studios.

Emergency services received calls just before 8pm last night that flames could be seen from the site of the Littlewoods Building on Edge Lane, a main artery into the city from the M62 motorway.

Fire crews were at the scene within four minutes of the alarm being raised.

Nine fire engines and three platform ladder units were on the scene during the night and crews using breathing apparatus entered the building to tackle the fire.

The service said it had received close to 60 calls from members of the public regarding the incident.

Merseyside Police closed both lanes of Edge Lane between the junctions of Beech Street and Laurel Road, but this morning the route had been re-opened to traffic.

The fire involved the right hand side of the iconic Littlewoods Building, but by 1.30am this morning the service said the fire was under control and crews had prevented it from spreading to the middle section and left hand side of the building, which remains undamaged.

A structural engineer from Liverpool City Council assessed the building and had no concerns over its structural integrity at this time.

Area manager Paul Murphy said: “This has been a significant fire and extremely difficult for our crews to deal with due to the size of the building.

“However, crews have worked extremely hard to battle this fire and have prevented it from spreading into the remainder of such an iconic building.

“We are all Merseyside firefighters and this building is as much iconic to us as it is to anyone else, so we are really pleased that we have been able to prevent further spread of fire.

“It has been a challenging incident but we are in a position with the council where we feel the structural integrity of the building may remain intact.”

Area manager Murphy added: “To be able to get such a large scale fire under control in a matter of hours without any injuries to our firefighters is something we’re very pleased with.”

Crews will remain on scene over the next 24 hours to carry out damping down operations.

An investigation into the cause of the fire will be launched.

The Littlewoods Building was built in 1938 by the Liverpool-based football pools empire.

During World War II it was requisitioned by the Government and was used to make barrage balloons.

In peacetime it was the printing centre for football pools coupons.

However, it had been derelict since 2003 before being acquired by Manchester-based property group Capital & Centric.

Earlier this year plans were unveiled for a Hollywood-standard filming complex at the site after Capital & Centric signed a deal with the UK’s oldest film studios, Twickenham Studios, which is famous for its work on movies such as Blade Runner, The Italian Job, Gandhi and more recently The Martian and Baby Driver.

Images of how the £50m Littlewoods Studios will look alongside the restored 1930s art deco style building were released.

The project was to feature two new 20,000 sq ft sound stages along with supporting workshops, wardrobe and prop storage and offices.

Tim Heatley, co-founder of Capital & Centric said at the time: “Littlewoods is one of Liverpool’s most loved buildings – it’s only fitting that we give the city something they’ll be proud of.

“Twickenham Studios couldn’t be a better fit. They’ll bring a century’s worth of film-making heritage and help to write a new chapter for the creative industries in and around Liverpool.

“Relighting the excitement and buzz around Littlewoods for a new generation of creative people will be incredible.”

The Littlewoods Studios scheme was set to create more than 570 jobs, and support in excess of 2,000 additional roles.

The plan was to open the studios in 2020.

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