Liverpool City Council is considering a costly Compulsory Purchase Order bid to rescue the £200m New Chinatown development should construction fail to resume at the prominent site.
A report to the council’s Cabinet next Friday 21 July will request CPO powers be used if current developer China Town Development Company Ltd cannot sell the site to another developer.
The vehicle, a subsidiary of North Point Global, acquired the Great George Street site, formerly billed as Tribeca, in June 2015 from landowners Urban Splash – which tried to develop it in the pre-2008 cycle – and the city council, to create a housing and leisure scheme called New Chinatown.
The council championed the development proposal and representatives from Liverpool Vision, the council’s investment agency, flew to China to sell the scheme to investors, who would lose millions of pounds on unbuilt apartments if the stalled development is not delivered.
More than £5.7m was raised from the first wave of sales; 70 flats were sold and 50% deposits taken on average sales prices of £165,000 for units ranging from £135,000 to £225,000.
A spokesman for North Point Global told Place North West the deposits are protected in escrow, sitting in solicitors’ accounts, and investors would not lose any money. A further statement about the future of the site is expected next week from North Point Global.
The 2015 planning consent was to build 790 homes over three phases, along with 121,000 sq ft of commercial and retail space and a 140-bedroom hotel. The design was by Blok Architecture.
The sole director of China Town Development Company is listed on Companies House as Craig Griffiths, an accountant at LJS Accounting Services, both businesses registered at Edward Pavilion, Albert Dock. Griffiths was unavailable when LJS was contacted by Place North West this morning.
A 250-year lease on phase one was granted by the council in April 2016, the month that work started on site.
The original contractor, Bilt Group, was pulled off North Point’s projects in December 2016 as work stalled, and then went into liquidation this March. In the same month, it was reported that Your Housing Group was in talks to take over the Chinatown site, although YHG declined to confirm that.
Following negotiations between the council and the developer, it has now been agreed the site be independently marketed over the summer for a new developer to deliver either the consented scheme or an amended scheme.
If a commercial sale does not materialise the report recommends the city council use its CPO powers. This will be conditional on identifying a new developer prepared to agree to underwrite the local authority’s costs in preparing, submitting and processing the order and funding the acquisitions, including a £950,000 debt owed to the city council in relation to the phase two site.
Cllr Ann O’Byrne, deputy mayor of Liverpool, said: “Liverpool City Council has been deeply concerned with how events have unravelled with the funding of Chinatown Development Company Ltd’s scheme.
“This report illustrates how hard we have been working to rectify the situation and the lengths we will go to, if necessary, to ensure the site is developed. It is vital that a new developer is found to get this scheme – or an amended one – back on track for the good of the Chinatown area, the city and those who have invested in it.”