Commercial and residential schemes slated for approval by planning committee

Bank of England Building (Google Street View)

The former Bank of England building, on Liverpool’s Castle Street, could be converted into a high-end restaurant.

Plans have been submitted to the city council’s planning committee, due to be held next Tuesday (August 22), with a recommendation from council planning officers to approve the proposals from property company JSM Group.

The site is located within the Castle Street Conservation Area and is a Grade I-listed building.

It was built in a Neoclassical style between 1845 and 1848 and was constructed as one of three branch banks for the Bank of England in the mid-19th century.

It comprises three storeys, with a basement, and includes two single storey buildings attached at the rear, fronting onto Cook Street. It was last used as a bank but has been vacant for a significant period of time.

The site is surrounded by Grade II and II*-listed buildings. The surrounding area now comprises a vibrant mixed-use character with retail, leisure, hotels and residential uses developing in recent years.

Liverpool-based JSM Group wants to change the building’s use from a bank to a restaurant, with associated external alterations, including the development of a restaurant and bar in the bullion yard to the rear of the building.

However, this has attracted objections from two local councillors, Nick Small and Christine Banks.

They said they support the restoration of such an important building in the city centre, in principle, saying: “Its proposed use as a high-end restaurant and bar would fit in well with other businesses in the area and, if managed well, would add to the value of the night time economy offer in Liverpool more generally and in this part of the city centre.”

However, they said they have grave concerns about one aspect of the planning application – the proposed use and alterations to the currently disused car park space at the rear, including new window opening and updating the pitched slate roof with a retractable glass section to be used as a bar during the summer months.

They said they are “very concerned about the impact this element of the proposed would have on neighbouring residents living on Sweeting Street in relation to noise and disturbance and at a loss as to how the negative impact of this could be conditioned out.”

They add: “Unless and until this can be addressed, we object to this element of the scheme.”

The building is regarded as one of architect Charles Robert Cockerell’s most impressive and was described by Nikolaus Pevsner as a “masterpiece of Victorian architecture” and by the National Heritage List for England as “one of Cockerell’s richest and most inventive buildings.”

It has lain empty for a number of years, but was occupied in April 2015 by ‘Love Activists’ in a protest over the provision of shelter and accommodation for the city’s homeless. Five protesters were subsequently jailed for almost three months in September that year on trespass charges.

Another submission in front of next week’s committee is a proposal, by Kersh Worral Commercial, to erect 39 houses and a four-storey block comprising 29 flats on the former Elaine Norris Community Centre, on Vauxhall Road, in Liverpool 5.

It was originally considered by the committee on December 13, 2022, and was recommended for approval, despite objections by the local Eldonian Residents Association.

However, it was deferred so a site visit could take place.

But the inspection never happened, and the applicant has now lodged an appeal against nondetermination which means the planning committee can no longer determine the application.

But the view of the planning committee can be submitted to the Inspector as part of consideration of the appeal.

The applicant said it may be willing to withdraw the appeal should the committee visit the site and “provide a positive view that the application should be granted subject to the conditions and legal agreement set out by officers”.

But the applicant has also indicated an intention to seek an award of costs in relation to the appeal for “the unacceptable, unnecessary and unreasonably extended timeframe and delay undertaking the site visit and reporting the application back to planning committee.”

In response, the council said the delay was due to local elections being held in the interim period, following which, the make-up of the planning committee has changed significantly.

Next week’s committee meeting has been recommended, by planning officers, to approve the application, subject to legal agreement.

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