Merseyside Police launches public consultation on sale of former HQ

As part of a wider estates programme and years after it was first touted, Merseyside Police’s former headquarters is going up for sale.

The landmark buildings on Canning Place, which the force left almost three years ago, are to be given a new lease of life following a wide-ranging public consultation launching this week.

A team of experts has been appointed to manage and market the sale of the iconic 2.65 acre plot which sits a stone’s throw from the historic Liverpool waterfront and next to Liverpool ONE shopping and leisure complex. Officers have now relocated to their £48m base at Rose Hill, bringing staff together under one roof.

The state-of-the-art new headquarters, just off St Anne Street was officially opened by HRH The Earl of Wessex in March 2022. Since then, Canning Place has become something of a halfway house, with various policing teams using the site while refurbishments are undertaken at sites elsewhere.

It has also been utilised as a base for major operations like last year’s Eurovision Song Contest.

Talks about the sale of the city centre location first arose a decade ago as then-police and crime commissioner Jane Kennedy and Chief Constable Sir Jon Murphy considered how the force could save money. As far back as 2014, the building was in desperate need of repairs and was described as being on the “cusp of not being fit for purpose.”

The move from Canning Place to Rose Hill has already enabled the police to save £589,000 a year on its annual running costs. 

Two years later in 2016, Mersey property experts said the police HQ was “the next big opportunity” for retail and leisure developers, but since then, nothing has moved forward. Now, a two-stage process will get underway to market the site, first through a public consultation.

Emily Spurrell, Merseyside police and crime commissioner, explained how and why the sale was moving forward. She said, “Canning Place has been a flagship station for a long time but the decision was taken to build a new one which we opened in 2021 and serves the public really well. Obviously that means we needed to start the process of disposing of Canning.

“There’s a financial interest in terms of making sure we get a good return on it, but because it was such a key location and iconic on the waterfront, I was really conscious that it was something the community had a say in what would go there or shape the kind of development they’d like to see.”

Whether the site remains standing is up to whomever takes on the site, with no restrictions being put on the sale, Mrs Spurrell said. She added how some people had already had an input on a potential future for the location.

“From some of the initial feedback online, people are keen to see it be used in some way to benefit the community, talk around maybe how it can support the need for housing or how we can create a public space for young people.”

After Christmas last year, a TikTok user managed to breach security and gain access to the vacant building. Merseyside Police said they took a “zero tolerance” approach to such activity, with Mrs Spurrell insisting it remained robustly protected and was now “completely empty and fully secured.”

The six-week consultation into the future of the site runs until 11 March and the views shared through the consultation will help to shape the production of a memorandum of understanding which in turn will be used to advertise the site on the open market. Mrs Spurell added, “People from all over the region, the country and indeed the world, know and love our skyline along the Mersey, boasting the Three Graces and the Royal Albert Dock and Kings Dock. I am committed to ensuring this pivotal plot of land is used for a high-quality development which will enhance the city and have a long-lasting economic, social, and environmental value for local people.”

More than £20m is expected to be recouped from the sale of 11 old and unused stations across Merseyside in the next decade as part of a wide-ranging estates strategy. Mrs Spurell said this was vital cash that could help reinforce frontline services.

She said, “One of the big selling points of moving from Canning and into Rose Hill was saving more than half a million pounds in terms of running costs. That’s day-to-day money we can reinvest into the front line.

“We’re really trying to invest as much as we can to modernise buildings where necessary or indeed build new ones because if we can make those running costs savings, that’s money we can save to put in the frontline.”

Two consultation events will also be held to give members of the public the opportunity to share their views on the future of the site in person. These will be held in a pop-up shop on the upper level of South John Street, next to Oliver Bonas, in Liverpool ONE on Monday from 10.30am to 6pm.

An online survey is also available at www.placed-engagement.org.uk/canningplace

Image: GOOGLE

Why not follow birkenhead.news on Facebook, Twitter, and Threads? You can also send story ideas or letters to the editor to news@birkenhead.news