The city council is trying to buy back the land where the railway embankment wall collapsed in February, closing Liverpool Lime Street station for more than a week, to build the multi-storey car park needed to serve the £1bn Paddington Village development.
The local authority is preparing to make a Compulsory Purchase Order to take back control of land it leased to student landlord Anwar Kassim on a series of 999-year leases in the 1990s.
Planners devising the 30-acre Paddington Village layout have concluded the best place for the multi-storey car park for workers and visitors to the university district extension is the corner area of Elm Grove and Smithdown Road in Kassim’s control.
At one of the premises, next to the railway embankment leading into Lime Street, a section of 10-metre cutting wall collapsed on Tuesday 28 February sending 200 tonnes of rubble across tracks on all four lines into the station and taking down overhead wires. Commuters, tourists, football fans suffered delays, replacement buses and cancellations on Northern, London Midland, TransPennine Express, Virgin Trains and East Midlands Trains services.
The cause of the collapsed wall is still the subject of an investigation. Network Rail engineers removed 4,000 tonnes of material from the top of the cutting. A spokesperson for Network Rail said at the time of the incident: “Five large containers, each holding many tonnes of material, have been stacked by a third party on elevated land beside the collapsed section of wall.” A spokesman for Network Rail said this week: “The incident at Liverpool Lime Street remains with our insurers and solicitors so we are unable to comment on the cause or other aspects associated with it.”
Kassim picked up long leaseholds on the land in a series of deals with the council, which owns the freeholds, between 1993 and 1996. The properties are 25, 27, 29, and 31 Smithdown Lane, and 2, 4 Elm Grove, and 14, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24, 26, 28 Albert Street. These will form the targets for the CPO.
The area is currently a mix of student flats and storage yards. It is the only part of the Paddington Village development area not currently in the council’s control.
On Friday, the council’s cabinet members will be asked to approve Morgan Sindall as contractor on the car park, through the North West Construction Hub framework. The car park will be developed and owned directly by the council, allowing it to benefit from parking fees income. The CPO is expected to be made shortly. A planning application is due to be submitted by Morgan Sindall next month.
The estimated budget for the cost of assembling the car park site was withheld in the latest published cabinet agenda. CPOs typically take two years to run and require a public inquiry. A purchase could be agreed before inquiry and the council said talks have been going on for 12 months but negotiations with Kassim have not been successful.
Paddington Village is a key part of the Knowledge Quarter and will contain the new £35m Royal College of Physicians centre of excellence school, occupying half of a 160,000 sq ft building on a 25-year lease. Morgan Sindall and AfL have been appointed to deliver the building, on the cleared site of the former Archbishop Blanch School.
Other phases include a base for Kaplan’s Liverpool International College, £35m Rutherford Cancer Centre North West, new hotel, 140,000 sq ft of offices, and combined heat and power plant.
Mayor Joe Anderson said: “The next 12 months will see a huge amount of activity and I’ve no doubt KQ Liverpool will be a real game changer for Liverpool’s economy.”
Colin Sinclair, chief executive of KQ Liverpool, said: “Paddington Village is a key component of building a world-class innovation district in KQ Liverpool, creating jobs and improving people’s lives. Our focus on health and wellbeing, science and education sets us apart and is attracting interest from far and wide.”
Attempts were made to contact Kassim.