The long-running redevelopment of St James Place in Liverpool has taken a major step forward with Elliot Group and the city council in line to agree a land sale next week.
Elliot Group has been eyeing a purchase of three separate plots at St James Place since 2016 and is looking to build up to 350 units across blocks ranging between four and 11 storeys, along with commercial and retail space at ground floor level.
Designed by architect Falconer Chester Hall, the proposals include a new public park and children’s play area at St James Place, while the ground-floor commercial space will be targeted at digital industries in response to growing demand for offices.
This will be across three sites: site one is designated as open space in Liverpool City Council’s Local Plan; while site two is located at Upper Harrington Street and Gore Street, and is allocated for residential development.
The third site is at Head Street and is currently used as industrial space; Elliot is looking to purchase the lease from a private leaseholder, and subject to planning approval for a future scheme, would also look to purchase the freehold interest from the council.
Public engagement started in 2018 with the architect and developer looking to gauge public views ahead of purchasing the site. This led to a series of changes; earlier proposals had included a fourth block of apartments on the southern boundary of the site and higher buildings on Head Street these have been removed and substantially reduced in height respectively following feedback from local councillors and residents.
Discussions were also held with transport authorities to ensure that the scheme could not jeopardise proposals for the re-opening of the neighbouring St James underground station. According to the developer, views were also sought from representatives of the Baltic creative industries to ensure that the commercial space was suitable for the needs of the area’s employers.
A report to Liverpool’s cabinet next week recommends the council sign an option agreement to allow Elliot Group to purchase the three sites. A full planning application will follow once the purchase completes.
“This has been a long journey, during which we have received some very constructive input from local ward councillors and residents and their ideas and observations have been critical to the shape of our final proposals. If we can secure cabinet approval then we’ll quickly move to a planning submission,” said Elliot Lawless of Elliot Group.
“Just 6% of the site’s green space will be lost under our proposals, and the quality of the public realm will be vastly improved. It’ll be a really nice development that will enhance the neighbourhood for everyone.
“It is really important that we listen to what people want. This is about adding value to the local area in a way which enhances it for existing residents as much as for the new ones who will be attracted to live and work here.”
Alastair Shepherd of Falconer Chester Hall, who led on the public engagement for the scheme, added: “People told us that fly tipping and anti-social behaviour were a real bug-bear. The green spaces in their current form aren’t safe or an enjoyable place to spend time, so a combination of enhanced management and the benefits of passive surveillance from new residents will help deal with that.”
The St James Place development has a long history, with a regeneration project launched in 2012 by the council, the Diocese of Liverpool, and the Berkeley Foundation.
This was to include the renovation of the grade two-listed St James Church; residential development on sites one and two; community facilities on the stopped-up Chesterfield Street; redevelopment of the industrial units on site three; and creating a national memorial and visitors’ centre for the victims of the slave trade.
However, work stalled on this redevelopment after it was found the memorial elements of the scheme would cost up to £20m. A registered provider had also been involved in the deal but subsequently withdrew, while the Diocese has also scrapped its plans to restore the church.
The slavery memorial is still being progressed, and the city council intends to ring-fence the receipts from the land sale of St James Place to contribute towards any future memorial project.
Liverpool City Council has been recommended to sign off the land sale at a meeting on 27 September.