Firm behind historic Liverpool store revamp goes into receivership

A £25m plan to convert a historic former department store building in Liverpool city centre could be in danger after the firm behind the plans entered financial difficulty.

In October last year, Landlab Developments Ltd secured planning permission from Liverpool Council to transform the former George Henry Lee building on Basnett Street into a 175-bed hotel and casino.

It was hoped the firm, which lists its registered office location as Mossley Hill, would deliver the venue under the Accor Mama Shelter brand.

However, according to an update on Companies House, the developer has fallen into receivership, placing the renovations in jeopardy.

For years, the historic former department store has stood vacant after Rapid Hardware closed its doors for the final time. When planning permission was secured last Autumn, it had been hoped contractors could begin work almost immediately.

This has now seemingly stalled, with London-based Antony Batty & Company appointed as the official receiver. Applying for such an option is an insolvency move in which a bank or lender takes control of the company to recover their debt.

This could lead to assets being sold to pay off owed funds.

During October’s planning committee, agent Richard Gee of Roman Sumner Associates, told the committee how the plans would include a sky bar and restaurant on site. The hotel would be delivered under the Accor Mama Shelter brand, making it the first of its kind outside London.

Mr Gee said it would represent “urban cool” with Mama Shelter designing “hotels around the ethos of the city selected”. The building “needs to be put back into good and sustainable use,” he added.

A design and access statement said despite the site once being a “very grand” department store, the interior of the building is currently in a very poor condition having gone through what is described as “a number of ad-hoc alterations, piecemeal demolitions and extensions here and there.” Among the other additions proposed include a games bar, sports bar, karaoke booths, cinema screens and a gym across nine floors.

George Henry Lee opened his first shop in Basnett Street in 1853 and the business eventually grew into one of the north’s top department stores, with a striking building to match. It was bought by John Lewis in 1940.

In the 1960s the existing store was merged with the Bon Marche store next door, which faced onto Church Street. In 2002, the old George Henry Lee name was dropped and the store became John Lewis.

In just six years, John Lewis left for a new home in Liverpool ONE. The old Bon Marche building became a TK Maxx, while the original George Henry Lee building was taken over by Rapid Hardware.

Among the other additions proposed included a games bar, sports bar, karaoke booths, cinema screens and a gym across nine floors. Last Autumn, Mr Gee said contractors were “standing by” to strip out the building upon approval being granted, with 200 jobs to be supported during the construction phase.

He added that a further 150 roles could be created upon completion.

Councillors unanimously agreed to back the plans when put to a vote. Among them was Cllr Pat Moloney, who expressed his concern at Landlab’s financial position.

He said, “I thought it was an excellent plan and the location was brilliant. Hopefully it will be massively successful as it will bring a huge boost to the city’s night time economy.

“If it has gone into receivership, I wonder if it can be developed by another party moving forward.”

The LDRS contacted Antony Batty & Company, Accor Hotels and Roman Summer for comment.

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