The Department for Transport is today launching a consultation on the proposal to remove its objection to lifting a grant condition which precludes the use of the City of Liverpool cruise terminal for turnaround operations - that is, the beginning and/or end of a cruise voyage.
This condition, which limits use of the terminal to port-of-call visits only, was originally imposed on the grant for the terminal, which opened in 2007, by the North West Development Agency because of concerns expressed by the department about potentially unfair competition with other cruise terminals which have not received such public subsidy.
The Peel Ports terminal at Langton Dock in Liverpool may currently be used for turnaround operations, but it is argued that it is an unattractive prospect - both aesthetically and operationally - and has already lost traffic as a result.
Liverpool City Council is proposing to make a partial repayment of the grant, staged over 15 years, amounting to approximately £5.3 million, in return for lifting the turnaround prohibition. This amount is abated from the original grant funding to take account of the time that the terminal will have operated with the restriction, and the fact that port-of-call visits will continue to deliver the benefits for which the grant was originally made.
It will be for Liverpool City Council to satisfy the European Commission, if necessary, that having regard to the continuing regional benefits from overall operations at the terminal, no parallel repayment of European funding is required.
I consider that the repayment proposal by Liverpool City Council can be justified taking into account the prospective regeneration and other benefits to the Merseyside area and, on this basis, I am consulting on the possibility of removing the objection. I am inviting comments by 15 September and will then consider responses carefully before arriving at a final decision.