Lime Street Wall Collapse 6 March

Council knew of Lime Street containers but owner was ‘immune from enforcement action’

Paul Unger

Local property developer, Anwar Kassim, the long leasehold owner of the land above the collapsed wall at the entrance to Lime Street station, faced council action five years ago over double-stacking containers at the site but the council said it was powerless to remove remaining single storey containers as they had been there for too long.

A council spokesman said: “We can confirm that we took enforcement action against the double stacking of shipping containers on the site in 2012 which led to their subsequent removal. The single storey containers on the site are immune from enforcement action because they had been on the site for more than four years when they were first brought to our attention.”

The site cabins were cited immediately by Network Rail following the collapse during Tuesday rush-hour, when 200 tonnes of rubble and soil fell 12 metres onto the tracks, resulting in the closure of Liverpool Lime Street station.

In 2010 Kassim applied for permission to erect site cabins and welfare facilities on the site for the duration of project works on neighbouring land. His company AK Sims’ properties include houses on Smithdown Lane and Albert Street where the container storage site is located.

The application was queried by the council due to lack of proper information being provided and was later withdrawn. The council ordered Kassim to remove the first floor of containers, following complaints about dangerous storage practices, but said it was powerless to remove the ground floor units as they had not been made aware within four years of their arrival.

Liverpool City Council owns the freehold of the site at 14-28 Albert Street. The council granted a 999-year lease to Anwar Hadi Kassim on 31 December 1993. He paid £47,100 in 2003 for one part of the site, which is divided into two plots, both owned by the council and both leased by Kassim.

Kassim, 73, of Southwood Road, Liverpool, describes himself on company documents as an engineer of Iraqi nationality. He has two businesses: Smithdownlane Development, registered in Liverpool, and AK Sims, a student accommodation provider registered in Bromborough, Wirral. Rooms are advertised on the AK Sims website for less than £35-a-week to rent.

In 2005, Kassim was granted planning approval, although no development was delivered and permission expired in 2010, for a four-storey block of student flats on the site, at 22-28 Albert Street.

The council and Kassim have clashed on a separate occasion. In June 2015, Liverpool City Council won a property tribunal against Kassim concerning a flat in a converted Victorian property in Botanic Road, Wavertree, owned by Kassim. The case was brought over the type of heating supplied to tenants in the flat and Kassim was forced to carry out improvements to install a modern heating system.

Meanwhile, Network Rail said it carried out regular inspections of its extensive track network but refused to confirm when the affected site was last checked, pending the conclusion of a rail accident investigation.

Kassim did not return calls from Place North West.

The station is due to reopen on Thursday this week.

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