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Clad all over

It's not just concerts and conferences that are set to boom down on the waterfront. Cladding is making a comeback at Liverpool's new arena - but it don't come cheap

Published on December 14th 2006.

Clad all over

Jack and Vera Duckworth lovingly cocooned their home in it, and once upon a time it was the extravagant exterior style to covet. But by last year it had fallen out of favour to such a degree that even the Yellow Pages banished its fine craftsmen from the book.

We are talking about cladding. Yes, cladding. And now it's back, big time, at Liverpool's Kings Dock arena, and Laurence Llewlyn Bowen isn't even in sight.

Good idea? Definitely, if you're the nostalgic type.

Bad idea? Definitely, if you're paying tax. Or, as the builders, with a sharp intake of breath, might have put it when they broke the news to owners ACC Liverpool: “It's going to cost yer.”

The pride and joy of Weathershield

The damage? Nine million quid of public cash to plug a deficit in the great white supergig hope on the waterfront.

Despite insisting the ACC Liverpool project is "on time and on budget" the management team wants more money to pay for, well, cladding, and, to be fair, a piazza and a PA system to “ensure it can compete with rival operators”

So who are these rivals? Manchester? Birmingham? Actually Peterborough is planning a similar-sized, 10,000 seater venue, however neither are likely to give Bruce Springsteen's tour manager sleepless nights.

But the British Society of Interventional Radiology is certainly up for it, and is holding its 2008 conference there along with 32 “blue chip” organisations pencilled into the diary. We can also look forward to the European Senior Amateur Boxing Association Championships, when it is hoped that the radiology delegates will still be around to provide emergency X-ray assistance to the Senior competitors - if and when push comes to shove.

With many more events still to be announced, the £146 million scheme, funded by the city council, Liverpool Vision, the North West Development Agency and English Partnerships, is still on schedule to be up and running in time for January 08, says ACC. It's got to be. It's opener is the inaugural ceremony for that most fanfared of fanfared happenings, Capital of Culture year.

But why cladding? Well one theory is that Duckworth-style décor will make the structure more visible on Google Earth. Alarm bells were sounded and fury unleashed last week when it was discovered that the arena and the 42-acre Paradise Project were missing from the handy satellite mapping tool. Not only that, but wild rumours suggested that the aerial photography was still showing the Liverpool Overhead Railway which was demolished in 1959 - long before handy satellite mapping toolery was even invented.

The pride and joy of Weatherfield

Talking of overheads, there is a bit of good news: The Kings Dock concert arena's substantial electricity bill will be shaved, thanks to a bit of literal regeneration. Two 70ft wind turbines are to be erected, providing 10 per cent of the arena's power. They will stand proudly on the World Heritage site, just along from the Three Graces and the newer kids on the block - a couple of very striking multi storey car parks and the Criminal Records Bureau.

Sharp intakes of breath all around at that one. Or, as those long suffering people at UNESCO might wonder: “Is this another wind up?”

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