Row breaks out over Liverpool Council purchase of police station

A row has broken out over Liverpool Council’s investment plans for a former police station after it was questioned by opposition members.

Last month, the city council’s cabinet agreed to buy the Smithdown Lane police station site from the force as part of its plans for Paddington Village. Given commercial sensitivities around the project, the decision was taken behind closed doors, prompting opposition Liberal Democrats to call-in the move.

Now, a senior cabinet member has hit back amid government funding being announced for the scheme. Cllr Nick Small said the opposition move was “economically illiterate”.

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.

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.” Additionally, the opposition said there had been “inadequate consultation with members or the wider council.”

The call-in suggested the council should not go ahead with the purchase and instead seek to work with a third party. It said, “The logic that the master plan would be difficult to implement if the council does not buy the lane is flawed.

“Additionally, we do not believe that this is a prudent financial investment at this time.”

It was announced earlier today that 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. Cllr Small, cabinet member for growth and economy, hit back at the opposition group following the funding was confirmed.

He said, “This call-in shows the economic illiteracy of the Liverpool Lib Dems. The council has been working for some time with our Universities, Knowledge Quarter, and development partners Sciontec on a vision for Paddington South to bring thousands of good quality jobs to our city, grow the city’s economy as well as improving health outcomes for everyone.

“The government has signalled a vote of confidence in our vision for the  Knowledge Quarter with significant capital investment to purchase the former police station on Smithdown Lane.  Essentially, what the Lib Dems are suggesting is that we send millions of pounds back to Whitehall and let a private developer come in and develop cheap student flats on the sites, which is the last thing that area needs. 

“It’s anti-jobs and anti-growth.”

As part of the call in lodged earlier this week, Liberal Democrat group leader, Cllr Carl Cashman, said, “At a time when Labour is planning to sell off two leisure centres in our deprived communities, selling off the cruise terminal and we’re still mopping up messes from the Anderson era, it really begs the question: is it prudent for the council to go around playing developer? 

“If the track record is anything to go by, the answer is no.”

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