Great George Street Project GGSD p.planning docs

The New Chinatown scheme proposes around 500 homes and a hotel. Credit: via planning documents

Liverpool’s bid to buy stalled New Chinatown falters 

Concerns around “corruption and reputational issues” continue to dog the city council, which is trying to take control of the high-profile development site off Great George Street, previously being brought forward by North Point Global.

Despite a concerted effort to improve its governance in the wake of a damaging report published two years ago, Liverpool City Council is facing resistance in its efforts to acquire the stalled £200m New Chinatown opportunity out of administration. 

Advisory firm Kroll, which is acting for administrator Begbies Traynor, raised questions about the £6m bid for the site, according to an update published on Companies House. 

Read the full report 

Kroll “refused to recommend or comment on any sale to Liverpool City Council based upon concerns of corruption and reputational issues”, the report states. 

Begbies, appointed as administrator over Great George Street Project Limited last year, is now seeking a “second opinion” on the bid. 

Kroll and Begbies did not respond to Place North West’s request for comment.

A spokesperson for Liverpool City Council said: “Some of the comments in the administrator’s report are inaccurate and have raised a number of questions, which the city council will be raising with the administrator and their representatives.”

Blocked bids  

The city council’s efforts to acquire the New Chinatown site saw the authority refuse to endorse a £10m bid from an unnamed party in May, according to the report. 

LCC has the right to veto bidders who do not meet certain criteria under the terms of a court order. 

In the city council’s opinion, the bidder “did not satisfy due diligence requirements and was not considered a suitable or desirable purchaser”, Begbies’ report states. 

A second bidder “appeared to meet LCC’s criteria”, however, the city council rejected that bid, too. 

Delaying tactics?

Ascot Capital, another party embroiled in the New Chinatown saga, has raised concerns about the city council’s conduct in relation to the bids, which were submitted in late 2022. 

Ascot, which owns the debt on part of the site, has expressed “concerns” about the amount of time Liverpool City Council took to make a decision on the bids. 

Begbies’ report states that “Ascot believed LCC were delaying matters so that the existing planning consent would expire and [the city council] could then seek to take back the site at a discount”. 

Liverpool City Council would not comment on this specific statement, referencing its response regarding “inaccuracies”.

In light of the delays, Ascot sought to discharge certain conditions relating to the planning permission to prevent it from lapsing but was met with resistance; Liverpool City Council’s planning department twice refused to give Ascot permission to carry out certain works.  

Ascot then took it upon itself to do the work anyway, a move that did not go down well with the city council, according to Begbies’ report. 

“The administrators received a letter from LCC threatening legal action… for allowing [Ascot] access to the site and undertaking work without [the council’s] consent.” 

The city council ultimately “dropped the issue”, the report states. 

A backward step

The contents of the administrator’s update fly in the face of the city council’s recent efforts to repair its reputation following Max Caller’s report and a Merseyside Police investigation into corruption that saw former Mayor Joe Anderson and head of regeneration Nick Kavanagh arrested. Neither man has been charged and both deny wrongdoing.

In the wake of the Caller report, the government sent a team of commissioners to oversee the running of certain council departments. In addition, the city council moved to bolster its processes, implementing a triple lock that requires various criteria to be met and checks carried out when it comes to decision-making.

A new leadership has also been installed, with Andrew Lewis taking over as chief executive and Nuala Gallagher heading up the regeneration department.

As a result of these interventions, confidence in the city council among stakeholders seems to have been growing in recent months. The authority will be hoping the New Chinatown saga will not impact its reputational recovery.

A long-running saga 

The £200m New Chinatown project in Liverpool has been in the pipeline for almost a decade. 

The most recent iteration of the scheme was approved in 2020 and proposed the creation of 446 apartments across seven buildings of between two and 18 storeys, as well as a 140-bedroom hotel and more than 100,000 sq ft of offices.    

Begbies Traynor was appointed as administrator over The Great George Street Project – the company behind that development – in March 2022.  

Since then, Begbies’ main aim has been to find a buyer for the 8.4-acre site.

New Chinatown was the subject of £200m redevelopment proposals from notorious developer North Point Global in 2015. These plans never materialised.   

North Point’s plan for the site, located east of the Baltic Triangle, featured 800 homes, a 140-bedroom hotel, and 120,000 sq ft of offices.  

The developer was delivering the project through its China Town Development Company SPV, later renamed The Great George Street Project.  

North Point’s involvement in the project ended in 2018 when Great George Street Developments took control of the site by acquiring a shareholding in The Great George Street Project. 

Since then, former North Point directors David Choules, Lee Spencer, and Antonio Garcia Walker have been disqualified from being directors.

Great George Street Developments was dissolved in June.

Your Comments

Read our comments policy

Is there no end to this? Every time I think Liverpool is on the up again….

By Anonymous

Very alarming the concerns expressed by the administrator. I really hope this can be resolved ASAP and the integrity of LCC can be restored.

By Liverpool4Progress

This needs someone outside the city to develop it.

By Mark

Great Design from Brock Carmichael, lets hope it gets taken forward!

By Anonymous

This long running fiasco absolutely sums up what is wrong in the city. Its beyond embarrassing , how bad does this look from afar ? This on the same day a 51storey tower completes in thriving Manchester when our city is being held ransom to a ludicrous planning department mandate of no towers , why ? they would have forced 4 blocks of 12 . I despair.

By Paul M

This matter needs resolving as a priority and a start made on this site which is essential in re-populating that part of Chinatown, as well re-vitalising the businesses in that area.
The site is currently an overgrown mess and a real eyesore.

By Anonymous

Quite a damning report and sums up LCC and how they seem to be making a hash of our city. How can they threaten action on something they don’t own?

By Anonymous

What a shambles this council is….why would they approve planning on the site, take the fee’s, then try and stop the implementation of it… they want it to remain an eyesore and stop the creation of homes and jobs!

By Peter S

Where are LCC getting the money from to pay for this? They bang on how poor they are, how many cuts have been made by central government, how badly services are being affected, yet they pull millions and millions of pounds out of nowhere to try and buy this site. They need to disclose where they are getting this money from as they are charging us taxpayers far too much for substandard services in this city.

By Dave

Some good points raised here for Julia to raise with Cllr Liam Robinson?

By Liverpolitis

    Our analysis editor David Thame had a chat with Cllr Robinson at LREF. That interview should be coming out soon – so keep an eye out for it! We’ll also have Cllr Robinson at our Place RESI event later this month to really zero in on housing policy in the city. – Julia

    By Julia Hatmaker

Doesn’t exactly scream China Town does it?

By Anonymous

To be fair to Liverpool Council, it strikes me that Kroll’s standpoint is well behind the times. This is a completely new regime doing its best to start a-fresh. Whether or not their approach to planning/disposal/development is the right one is another matter altogether, of course.

By Sceptical

I am not concerned as many by the above. The accusations against the council by Kroll are just that, accusations. Given the developer’s less than, shall we say, golden reputation, this smacks to me more as a means to frustrate the sale process (i.e., look at the outcome here). This is not to say that LCC are virtuous in anyone. However, I do believe that they have largely cleaned house. Like some others here, I do think they should revisit the tall buildings policy to basically allow some tall buildings. It is frustrating that schemes get chopped in half by the council planners. My own two cents is that developers should be able to build as tall as they want in the CBD, Pumpfields, Liverpool Waters, and King Edward triangle.

By Chris

It would be interesting to know why the Council didn’t approve the bids from potential developers – given the recent Best Value Inspection perhaps they are making sure that the City doesn’t get ripped off again by unscrupulous developers.

By Anonymous

Get this resolved quickly and it can be delivered to coincide with the new Baltic Station!

By Anonymous

Still this come on Liverpool get a grip seriously!!

By Anonymous

In response to Mark. Why does there need somebody outside the City to develop it? You seem to be characterising everybody in the city by the actions of a small number of charlatan fraudulent developers. There are a number of local developers who would be a good fit for this site. There are also a number of outside developers whom play the pretty picture game but when it comes to putting their hand in their pocket go missing and want to public sector to underwrite everything. We need less of them let me tell you no matter where they are from.

By Brian Ogden

Related Articles

Sign up to receive the Place Daily Briefing

Join more than 13,000 property professionals and receive your free daily round-up of built environment news direct to your inbox


Join more than 13,000 property professionals and sign up to receive your free daily round-up of built environment news direct to your inbox.

By subscribing, you are agreeing to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.

"*" indicates required fields

Your Job Field*
Other regional Publications - select below