Leaders clash over Liverpool Council police station purchase

Senior politicians have traded blows in a debate over Liverpool Council purchasing a former police station.

It was confirmed in February that the city council is to buy the Smithdown Lane site from Merseyside Police as part of its proposals for development of Paddington Village.

This prompted a row to break out as opposition members questioned the move and a perceived lack of transparency.

As the move was scrutinised during a committee hearing at Liverpool Town Hall, leading councillors clashed over its handling.

Since 2016, discussions had taken place regarding the council potentially taking on the Merseyside Police site on Smithdown Lane to expand Liverpool’s burgeoning Knowledge Quarter at Paddington Village. The station opened in 1976 and became a base for the force’s traffic policing operations.

Around £13m will be made available to Liverpool Council to complete the purchase as part of a wider £31m investment in the city region by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

Paddington Central, which forms part of the wider village development, has been earmarked to shape a Liverpool City Region Investment Zone proposal to the government focused on the region’s strengths in health and life-sciences.

A call-in request was submitted by Liberal Democrats, led by Cllr Carl Cashman, citing a “lack of pre-decision scrutiny, as there was no opportunity for the culture and economy subcommittee to consider this issue.” Cllr Cashman said it took the opposition to call it in to “reveal what was going on” with the site.

He called on Cllr Nick Small, cabinet member for growth and economy, to be reprimanded for “withholding this information from this committee” and said the city was potentially facing a “white giraffe” in the form of the council-funded Spine building.

Responding, the long-term Labour member said the cabinet cannot always release all information into the public domain owing to commercial sensitivities and added why the council sought to buy the site. He said, “It gives us significant influence over what we want to do.

“If a third party were to take it over as has been suggested, it would deliver low-quality student accommodation that the community doesn’t need. It wouldn’t have the impact of jobs.”

He criticised Cllr Cashman’s white giraffe comment as “flippant” and claimed it “drives investors away.” He accused the opposition leader of “playing politics with people’s livelihoods, jobs and the future of this city.”

A final masterplan and development strategy will be presented to cabinet in the autumn, subject to a decision made regarding the call-in. These could include knocking down the existing buildings, with an updated demolition cost prepared last year, informed by the asbestos register provided by Merseyside Police.

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