Press release: Key victory as SAVE halts immediate demolition of Liverpool’s Futurist cinema at the Court of Appeal

SAVE Britain’s Heritage has won a key victory at the Court of Appeal in the fight to save the frontage of the 1912 Futurist cinema from immediate demolition.

Liverpool City Council had previously told the Court that the front elevation was in danger of imminent collapse. On 6th May they had given undertakings to deconstruct the minimum necessary and to mark up and store the removed materials so that the façade could be reconstructed. A week later the Council said that the façade could not be dismantled by hand and should be partially demolished with heavy plant.  

This would potentially leave only the ground floor standing with no prospect of the Futurist’s reconstruction if SAVE is successful in its wider appeal. The scaffolding around the Futurist was removed last Saturday in preparation for immediate demolition works.

However at the Court of Appeal hearing on Monday, SAVE QC Richard Harwood supported by specialist conservation engineer Ed Morton of The Morton Partnership successfully argued that there were alternative means of safeguarding the frontage.

Lord Justice Lindblom was not persuaded that there was an imminent risk to public safety and accepted our argument that demolition in the manner proposed by the Council risked triggering a collapse of the whole façade and surrounding buildings, and found that no safety or risk assessment was submitted to support their proposed emergency works.

The judge also accepted the alternative scheme for stabilising the façade set out by Ed Morton using scaffolding and any necessary manual deconstruction of the unsafe elements of the Futurist was a cogent engineering solution which could be carried out in a safe manner to address the Council’s public safety concerns. This showed that the demolition as set out by the Council was not necessary.

The report submitted to the Court by Ed Morton states: “I have provided an alternative temporary works scheme using scaffolding both internally and externally with the wall clamped between it to provide it with temporary stability including the high level pediment. This method would not need a complete road closure of Lime Street and could I believe be implemented in a short period.”

In his report, Ed Morton also pointed out that the faience tiles on the façade of the building were not cladding applied to the masonry – as originally claimed by the Council – but in fact hollow blocks that provided much greater stability than cladding. During the inspection on 10th May, the Morton Partnership did not find any units which were loose or detached. Read the full report by Ed Morton dated 15 May here:

This decision is separate to the substantive Court of Appeal hearing regarding the planning permission for the redevelopment of the whole site on Lime Street.  This is due to take place over the next six weeks.

Henrietta Billings, Director of SAVE said: “This is a major step forward – we are delighted that the Court was persuaded by our arguments for the stabilisation of the main elevation, and that the imminent demolition has been halted. We are looking forward to assisting the Council with implementing the approach set out by Ed Morton to retain and stabilise the façade of this historic building.”

Marcus Binney, Executive President of SAVE said: “Cinemas were one of the 20th century’s most exciting new art forms and the Futurist is one of Britain’s earliest and grandest examples.

This important judgment comes ahead of the main Court of Appeal hearing which will deal with the wider heritage issues of the planning permission granted in 2015 by Liverpool City Council.”

The planning permission includes the loss of the Futurist cinema and over ten flanking historic buildings, and the redevelopment of the site with an 11 storey student housing block which will impact the World Heritage Site. 

SAVE was granted leave to appeal this decision at the Court of Appeal earlier this month – we are currently awaiting a date in court which is set to be either late May or June 2016.

Numerous objections have been raised against the damaging elements of the £35m proposal for student flats, from Merseyside Civic Society, the Historic Cinema Theatres Association and the Victorian Society, as well as SAVE.  A public petition to Save the Futurist Cinema gathered over 4,000 signatures. 
SAVE is continuing to appeal for funds to support the campaign. Thank you very much for your support. We have received nearly £6,000 so far in over 120 separate donations. We need £10,000 to cover our legal costs. Please help us reach our target by donating here:

Last week we published our alternative vision for Lime Street, a panoramic image which shows the Futurist cinema façade and the original 18th and 19th century buildings on this key city centre gateway retained and brought back to life.


Notes to editors:

SAVE Britain’s Heritage was represented at the Court of Appeal by Richard Harwood QC OBE and Susan Ring and Harry Campbell of Harrison Grant Solicitors.

1. For more information please contact Henrietta Billings, Director at SAVE on 0207 253 3500

2. The appeal relates to Liverpool City Council (‘LCC’) and Neptune Developments’ proposals to demolish more than ten buildings on Liverpool Lime Street, which is located in the World Heritage Site Buffer Zone.

SAVE considers that insufficient consultation took place before the Council determined the future of Liverpool’s gateway street from which the famous railway station takes its name.

SAVE also considers that the issue of how LCC consults with the UK’s World Heritage Committee and DCMS is crucial in order to protect Liverpool’s World Heritage Site in the future. This also has wider importance for other World Heritage Sites in England and Wales. The current system of consultation is not clear and is not achieving the necessary level of protection.

3. To support SAVE’s campaign please donate here:

Documents (click to read/download)