Controversial residential scheme rejected following councillors’ site visit

Bank of England Building (Google Street View)

Liverpool City Council planning committee has rejected a bid to build new houses and flats on a former community centre site near the city centre following a site visit yesterday (August 22), despite a recommendation by planning officers to approve.

The 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, is subject to a nondetermination appeal due to delays in processing the submission.

This means the committee cannot make a decision on the proposal, however, at yesterday’s planning committee, it was resolved that the Planning Inspector be made aware that if the application was before the committee for determination, the committee would refuse the application, for the following reasons:

  • The lack of affordable housing in accordance with Policy H3 ‘Proposals for Residential Development’
  • The lack of provision of open space on site, or a contribution to off-site space in accordance with Policy GI4 ‘Open Space’
  • The lack of biodiversity net gain in accordance with Policy GI10 ‘Green Infrastructure Enhancement’ and GI6 ‘Protection of Biodiversity and Geodiversity’

The submission 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.

The applicant said it might 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.

Another scheme before the committee, to convert the former Bank of England building on Liverpool’s Castle Street, into a high-end restaurant, was unanimously approved.

Liverpool-based property company JSM Group is behind the scheme, which 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.

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.

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