Benmore wins approval for Speke leisure scheme

Towerbeg, a subsidiary of the Belfast-based Benmore Group, has been given the green light for a £50m leisure and retail complex in south Liverpool, despite opposition from the Peel Group and Ford.

It wants to build a seven-screen cinema, 18 commercial units and a 78-bed hotel on a 15-acre brownfield site near the New Mersey Retail Park off Speke Hall Road

It has also won outline permission for a 120-bed hotel, another 78-bed hotel and a further three commercial units.

Benmore hopes to be on site later this year and complete the scheme in late 2013. It says it will create 400 construction jobs and 320 permanent posts.

Benmore's chief executive David Burrows said: "We are delighted to have been granted permission for a project which will make a real difference to the lives of thousands of people in south Liverpool, creating hundreds of jobs and providing sorely needed family leisure facilities for local people.

"We are committed to working with all stakeholders to ensure this project is delivered on time and on budget, with minimum disruption to existing businesses using the site and maximum benefit to the people of Speke Garston."

The proposals attracted the ire of Peel Holdings, the car-maker Ford, various rail-freight bodies and the union Unite.

Peel, which owns land nearby, submitted an eight-page objection through its Peel Investments division. It argued the development, which will use land adjacent to a freight terminal, will frustrate the expansion of rail freight in the city and impact on the region's growth.

Ford is concerned because it leases part of the site to store up to 4,000 cars for its distribution operation. It employs 135 people directly, and supports a further 54. It says these jobs would be lost if it is forced to move.

The rail-freight lobby and Unite argued the proposals would "undermine the automotive intermodal freight terminal which has operated for over 40 years".

In their report council officers said the scheme's benefits, "outweigh any policy concerns".

It has been designed by Liverpool architects Falconer Chester Hall.

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