Fury as LEP chairman reveals plans to develop call centre on council land at Kings Dock

Developers have reacted angrily to a deal by Liverpool City Council to put a call centre for The Contact Company, a Birkenhead-based business owned by Asif Hamid, chairman of the city region’s Local Enterprise Partnership, on the final remaining plot at the prime waterfront development.

The LEP is the economic development agency and tourist board responsible for, amongst other things, promoting Kings Dock as a visitor destination.

The plot remains highlighted in the LEP’s visitor economy strategy and destination management plan as ideal for “Olympic standard ice rink, extreme sports centre and quality restaurants.”

The Kings Dock plot has long been eagerly sought after by property developers, who reacted bitterly to the confirmation of the long-rumoured deal with TCC. Several high-profile established developers expressed concerns over the deal, which they say does not represent best use of the site or public land. They also complain the development opportunity was not publicly advertised by the council and further undermines the city’s already struggling and fragmenting office market – Kings Dock is not an office area and the recognised commercial district around Old Hall Street and new development Pall Mall are in serious need of occupiers.

The director of one major regional developer already active in Liverpool, who asked not to be named, said: “We registered our interest and would love to do it but we got radio silence from the council. There should be something of quality there. The council asked for an ice-rink, there is the opportunity to do something spectacular on the waterfront, but a call centre, really?”

Mayor Joe Anderson called the Kings Dock deal with his LEP colleague “brilliant news for Liverpool” and said it “could ultimately lead to the creation of a new riverside destination, boosting our visitor economy and creating jobs for local people.”

A planning application was submitted on Thursday, according to the council, although the application has not yet been made public. The office has been designed by Falconer Chester Hall. Knight Frank is the planning adviser. Consultation is expected to begin this month.

TCC plans to build a four-storey 45,000 sq ft office for 1,500 staff to manage the growth in its outsourced customer service contracts business.

The site is the last prime waterfront plot at Kings Dock and sits next to the arena and convention centre, Pullman hotel, multi-storey car park and residential blocks.

The land was acquired by Liverpool City Council earlier this year from the Homes & Communities Agency using £6m from the Regional Growth Fund. The RGF is central government budget devolved to LEPs for distribution at a local level.

The council’s chosen developer to deliver the call centre and wider scheme is Yeung Property Group, a Liverpool-based developer established in 2015 and controlled by Ming Yeung.

The proposal is for three initial phases:

  • the 45,000 sq ft office building in the first phase
  • 120 apartments and multi-storey car park, retail and “office / heritage interpretation centre” in phase two
  • 280 new homes, winter garden and public realm improvements in the third phase

Hamid acknowledges the Kings Dock deal represents a potential conflict of interest and submitted a declaration of his interest in the land for the LEP’s register of members’ interests last year in accordance with the organisation’s code of conduct, which lists “selflessness” as the first principle for board members to follow, adding members “should avoid putting themselves in a position where there is a conflict between their personal interests and their duties to the LCR LEP board.”

Asif Hamid Conflict Of Interest Form Crop

Hamid’s unsigned and undated declaration of interest form uploaded to the LEP website in July 2016

The LEP and Hamid did not respond to questions about the conflict of interest.

HCA Kings Dock 2012

Development area shown in red in masterplan from HCA contest in 2012 which failed to produce a winner

The 11-acre site has been used as a surface car park for many years and has been the subject of several aborted development contests by the HCA and predecessor English Partnerships.

The council said the ambitious tourist attraction element remains an option for later phases but no details have yet been released.

“The wider site has potential for a range of leisure uses that could include a 2,000-seat ice-rink, ten-pin bowling or an innovative virtual reality centre,” according to a letter sent by YPG advisers to local residents and obtained by Place North West.

A council spokesman said: “The Monarch’s Quay site is already allocated for mixed-use development in the Liverpool Unitary Development Plan, which has been widely consulted on over a number of years and dictates acceptable uses and design principles for the site.”

YPG Asif Hamid Kings Dock

From left: Liverpool City Council assistant director of regeneration Mark Kitts, Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson, The Contact Company CEO Asif Hamid MBE, YPG CEO Ming Yeung and Chris Bliss, project leader for YPG

YPG has appointed Chris Bliss, former estate director of Grosvenor’s Liverpool One, who left this week after 20 years at Grosvenor, to manage the Kings Dock project. Bliss is a member of the Liverpool LEP’s visitor economy sub-board. Bliss said YPG has £180m of developments in its pipeline. These include apartment schemes Devon House and Kings Dock Mill, currently on site.

Steve Rotheram, mayor of Liverpool City Region, also praised the proposal, saying “the Contact Company is one of the city region’s more recent success stories.”

TCC reported turnover of £20m and gross profit of £5m in the year to April 2016. The Kings Dock office, due for completion at the end of 2018 subject to planning, would be the latest in a series of property expansions fuelled by public sector aid for Hamid’s business. In October 2016, TCC started operating from an £8.5m office of 48,000 sq ft developed by Longmeadow Estates on public land owned by the HCA in the tax advantageous Wirral Enterprise Zone with development grant funding and support from Wirral Council, Department for Communities & Local Government and European Regional Development Fund.

In October 2010, Hamid bought the 29,500 sq ft office of collapsed building firm Felton in Queensgate, Birkenhead from receivers with a £250,000 Wirral Council Think Big grant and a loan from NatWest.

Hamid is chairman of Wirral Chamber of Commerce and was awarded an MBE in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours List for services to business.

Your Comments

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Interesting, I hope this does not discourage investors and developers, this office could have been anywhere in the business district.
If the council have not returned calls to developers, that is very worrying from a lot of perspectives?

By causal observer

1500 staff in 45,000 sq.ft. office. Wow!, At 30 sq.ft. per person thats only slightly more than a battery hen might expect.

By Foghorn Leghorn

This would never be allowed in Manchester.

By Connor McCloud

It’s OK. It will be funded by selling 1 bed apartments to overseas investors. This has worked brilliantly for Liverpool. Look at New China Town. It’s a great idea and the cgi looks fantastic. People love it. Overseas investors want to pay 50% more per square foot than anyone else. They know the agent’s and middlemen need the income and value the service and integrity.
Everyone knows that call centres want to pay prime rents. That is why they always look for space in fantastic city centre locations and not on business parks.
Thank God Liverpool City Council gets this and isn’t chasing pie in the sky deals like Manchester, London, Birmingham etc.

By Slightly sceptical

Don’t think it’s very appropriate for Mark Kitts to turn up wearing diddly boppers or whatever they are!

By Dr Alban

Yes they do look like reindeer themed deely bobbers – excellent. I take what I said yesterday back about the inflatable water park – as even this is more likely to attract visitors than a call centre. Don’t get many people saying oh we popped over to Liverpool to see/take the kids to the call centre!

By Mary Smiley

Well done to PNW for covering this. At least there is one media outlet doing its job properly. Today’s Echo front page was as disheartening as the matter itself.

Keep up the good work.

By Mike

I agree with Mike, this needs looking into and with full transparency and reporting.

By Liverpolitis

What an earth is going on here? Mr Rotherham, this is where you start cleaning up this wonderful city’s reputation. Act now and act decisively.

By JKay

What an outrageous waste of the only opportunity to create what could have been one of the greatest, varied and most interesting waterfronts in the world. The existing wayerfront focuses on the wonderful Albert Dock complex by which it is also severely restrained in its ability to provide adequate public realm. It is a place to visit primarily because of its historical significance. Opportunities to sit outside and simply pass the time of day are limited. Monarch’s Quay is the only opportunity Liverpool has to extend the existing heritage based contribution to include a dynamic, contemporary Waterfront designed for the people around its public realm areas. There is no excuse whatever to fritter this unique opportunity away not only on an inappriate office use which brings with it a disproportionate requirement for additional car parking, but one at the least glamorous end of that category which tends to have a high turnover of low paid workers and pays rent at the lower end of the scale for premises to house them in. The correct way to bring this site forward for viable leisure and recreational uses is through an international design competition linked to an extensive public consultation and not covertly through councillors doing back room deals away from the public gaze.
This outrage merits a response by the formation of an Action Group which cares about this great city and doesn’t want to see such a wonderful opportunity squandered bybineptitude or who knows, self interest somewhere in the mix.

By Anonymous

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