How the people who make Lark Lane what it is feel about changes

One of South Liverpool's most famous streets is taking its first tentative steps into a new era.

Like some of the city centre's hospitality hubs, Lark Lane in Aigburth is set to experience some fundamental changes as it embarks on life after lockdown in Liverpool.

Famed for its independent bars, restaurants and shops, the changes to the street form part of the Liverpool Without Walls project which is aiming to support the hospitality industry with new social distancing measures.

The project has already seen major changes to Bold Street and Castle Street, which have been closed to traffic to allow extra space for businesses to put seating outside.

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Lark Lane's changes aren't going that far yet – but it has now become a one-way street to enable bars and restaurants to increase the number of people outside.

Side streets Waverley Road and Little Parkfield Road have also become one-way to help facilitate this.

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Existing parking bays are being altered, while provision will be made for disabled parking and loading bays along the famous street.

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Many businesses have already applied for new pavement licenses, for which the fees are being waved by the city council.

Three of those Lark Lane businesses to apply for the licenses belong to Rob Gutmann.

Mr Gutmann is the owner of popular Lane bars Love and Rockets, Polidor and Bookbinder.

He praised the city council for moving quickly to support Liverpool's hospitality businesses in the new post-lockdown era.

He said: "I'm unequivocally full of praise for the council and the Mayor for reacting quickly to the fact that hospitality is so important to this city.

"They quickly identified three key streets and moved at speed – I'm sort of stunned at how quickly it's happened.

"Of course the proof of the pudding will be in the eating but I am really happy to see this action, I think that what is good for hospitality is good for Lark Lane."

The business owner said he would possibly like to see the Lane go into a full state of pedestrianisation if the initial plan is successful.

He added: "I think as along as there was good access for disabled parking, deliveries and taxis then full pedestrianisation could work – I think that's the dream."

Mr Gutmann said that despite the pressure on the industry, he has seen more and more people heading to Lark Lane since lockdown measures were lifted.

He added: "I've actually been able to employ another 15 people, the impact of allowing businesses to put on more covers will allow businesses to expand and create jobs."

But of course Lark Lane isn't just about the businesses on it, with a large number of residents living on and around the iconic street.

One of those is Sara Garstecka, who lives nearby.

She is also optimistic about what the changes could mean for the area.

She said: "I think it's a good idea, I've always thought Lark Lane should be pedestrianised with good access to homes and deliveries, so this is definitely a step in the right direction.

"Businesses on the lane have definitely been hit hard by Covid so if this will help them to work safely, I can’t see why it shouldn’t be carried out.

"Traffic has been quite busy so anything that limits that is great."

She added: "I imagine this could make things louder for local residents so I hope there will be some reasonable measures brought in about closing times."

Lark Lane falls within the St Michael's council ward, which is represented by three Green Party councillors.

The Greens have been broadly in favour of changes to Lark Lane, which they agree will enable businesses to use the pavements for seating to help them operate in a safe, socially distanced way.

However leader Cllr Tom Crone says Lark Lane is unique because it has such a mix of shops, and it is also primarily a residential area.

He said: "This means a lot of different interests and concerns need to be considered to get this right.

"This has led to several meetings with residents and businesses, as well as the council staff making this happen to make sure the plans are a good fit for the area.

"The main thing we are looking for is that the changes are kept under constant review, and can be tweaked if issues do arise. The plans have had to be rushed through, but hopefully it proves to be a risk worth taking.

"Ideally, by restricting the space available for traffic and adding outdoor seating Lark Lane will become a thriving social space reminiscent of the best cafe culture on the continent.

"This would be great for visitors and a real boost to the many much loved independent businesses that make the lane such a unique place."

The Greens are pushing for Lark Lane to remain a two-way route for cyclists as it is an important cycling corridor between Sefton Park and Otterspool Promenade.