Hotel plans for former city centre magistrates court

Cells at a former magistrates court at the heart of Liverpool city centre could be converted into hotel rooms.

More than 100 new bedrooms could be installed at the long-vacant grade II listed magistrates court and fire station building cornering Dale Street and Hatton Garden. The site has fallen into disrepair since it closed in 2015 amid failed plans to reinvigorate the building.

Proposals to breathe new life into the building dating back to the 1850s will now go before Liverpool Council’s planning committee for final approval.

Plans submitted by VSHF Developments Ltd seek to convert the site into a hotel, including a bar/restaurant, leisure and function rooms, with associated internal alterations and demolition to facilitate these works. In addition, a new build element would be built containing further short-term accommodation and ancillary leisure uses.

The building – which once contained seven courtrooms, alongside basement and ground floor cells – has been designated as a grade II listed building since 1975 and adjoins the grade II listed former Central Fire Station within the settings of several other listed buildings, including the Main Bridewell and Municipal Buildings, reflecting the medieval origins of Liverpool. Since closing in 2015, the complex has been subject to a number of development proposals, including hotel plans and student flats.

As neither of these have come to fruition, the site continues to remain vacant, and the condition of the building has deteriorated further.

According to planning documents, the courthouse has a very complex floor plan, due to the requirement to keep the judges and magistrates separate from the public. The fire station has a relatively simple floor plan with an access corridor to the rear and a series of offices fronting onto Hatton Garden. 

Both are spread over five floors including basement areas and a very small attic room. The buildings are arranged around an original courtyard which has been populated with outriggers.

The applicant hopes to transform the site into a “high end four star boutique” hotel. A collection of room types will be on offer, including luxury suites in the old magistrates’ and judges’ offices to bespoke themed short-stay rooms in the cells.

This is achieved by knocking through and combining two cells into one space. The knock-through is articulated with an exposed steel beam allowing the history of the building to be easily read.

If approved, which planning officials have recommended councillors do, the proposals would have to follow a series of conditions owing to the building’s grade II listing.

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