City centre housing scheme thrown out

Plans to transform a major office block into housing opposite one of Liverpool’s main railway stations have been thrown out.

Members of Liverpool Council’s planning committee were not content to give the go-ahead for a revamp of Centric House, opposite Moorfields station, after concerns were raised about a lack of affordable housing. As a result, proposals for 45 new apartments in the long-vacant building will not go ahead.

Cllr Joe Hanson said the lack of affordable housing within the application “flies in the face” of the city’s local plan.

Despite undergoing a major refurbishment after a multi-million pound acquisition, office space at Centric House has lain dormant for a number of years. The imposing site had been potentially put forward as part of the answer to Liverpool’s ongoing housing issues.

Earlier this month, the city council’s planning committee considered a bid by Cert Property Limited to repurpose the site into single-level and duplex homes. According to a planning statement, the building only had a single tenant occupying around 50% of the ground floor lettable space.

However, councillors indicated they were minded to reject the plan given a lack of affordable options within the plans. As such, it went before the committee for a second time – once again recommended for approval – for a final decision.

Stephen Oster, on behalf of Cert, said despite its best efforts, the firm had never been able to get a “sustainable level of occupancy” in the building and housing proposals would provide a “new chapter” for Centric House. Mr Oster added how the development of the site would make it an “asset to the area over the long term”.

The building, which is located within the Castle Street Conservation Area, has a car park at basement level and a smaller car park at ground floor level within a courtyard. It was described as being of “poor architectural merit” and could be replaced by a “high-quality residential scheme” in an “under-utilised building in the city centre”.

Cert purchased the 27,000 sq ft building six years ago to convert it into office space in a £3.3m deal after its former owner entered administration. The building last underwent a refurbishment in 2010, when it was owned by Barclays.

The bank vacated the building when it moved to 20 Chapel Street and Lord Street on the edge of Liverpool ONE. It was renamed Centric House in 2011.

Having initially rejected the plans earlier this month based on concerns over affordable housing and developer contributions, councillors were not swayed further when Mr Oster confirmed properties would be listed between £150,000 to £300,000. Cllr Hanson said a lack of affordable housing went against the city’s local plan and said he would reject any bid to approve the scheme.

Despite being recommended for approval, councillors voted to throw out the proposal, which could be subject to an appeal by Cert.

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