Peel L&P ready to accelerate £5.5bn Liverpool Waters
With £800m of projects currently on site and more to come, the man leading the 150-acre regeneration of the city’s northern docklands has rubbished the idea that the company is dallying on delivery.
“There isn’t a lack of progress,” said Chris Capes. “I would challenge [people that] say that there’s not a lot happening.”
Feeding into the perception that Peel is sitting on its hands is the sheer size of the site. Capes concedes that people want to see activity but creating a buzzy building site vibe on the entirety of such a large swathe of land is tough.
Another factor is the amount of recent news coming out of Wirral Waters, another Peel regeneration project over the water. In recent months, several schemes have started on site including the 500-apartment Millers Quay.
Development comes in cycles, Capes says. There are bound to be peaks and troughs in terms of activity.
At Liverpool Waters, a peak might be on the horizon.
In recent weeks, work on two residential schemes comprising 600 homes has started on site; Romal Capital’s 330-home Central Docks and Patagonia Place, a 278-apartment project being delivered by X1.
The new Isle of Man Ferry Terminal is nearing completion, while Everton FC’s £500m stadium is motoring along.
Capes is also waiting patiently for Liverpool City Council to approve a planning application for infrastructure work that could unlock land for more than 2,300 homes at Central Docks, and a four-acre park.
“I feel we’re building momentum,” says Capes. “I think we’re going to start seeing a considerable amount of activity over the next two or three years.”
Capes is keen to stress that there is a huge amount of work going on behind the scenes at Liverpool Waters and has urged patience from stakeholders.
“It is really easy to criticise and not really understand the detail and the time that goes into development.
“These things don’t happen overnight, they take a long time to deliver. We’ve got a 30-year planning permission and we are 10 years in.”
The 31-storey Patagonia Place is an instructive case study when it comes to demonstrating the tricky business of development – especially at present.
Peel L&P secured planning approval for the project in 2020 and agreed to sell the site to Your Housing Group the following year.
However, last year the housing association pulled out of the project, forcing Peel back to the drawing board.
In February, more than a year after YHG and Peel parted ways, the developer agreed to sell the site to long-time collaborator X1, a company it has worked with at MediaCity, Manchester Waters, and Trafford Waters.
With enabling work underway, Peel can now draw a line under the previous difficulties and look ahead.
“There’s a relief that we have got it over the line but there is excitement around that building and how that will impact on the place,” Capes said.
What comes across when speaking to Capes is his delight at being involved in a project that, once complete, could effectively expand Liverpool northwards by two kilometres.
“It is an amazing development opportunity and that is what keeps me coming back to work every day. Making a difference, I suppose, is what comes down to.”
When Capes took the job in 2021, he did so with the intention of seeing it through to completion.
And, like anyone leading such an enormous regeneration project, he will be under an enormous amount of scrutiny over the next 20 years.
“There’s a massive amount of passion about the city from the people that live here,” he said. “You’re left in no uncertain terms about what people want to see.
“We are the guardians of the land. The responsibility sits with us to develop it.”