Developer admits £40m scheme is ‘borderline viable’

Developers usually have to pay an agreed cash sum to the council for wider public benefit but Glenbrook will pay just 20% of the agreed amount on its £40m Liverpool waterfront scheme. Tony McDonough reports

Glenbrook
CGI of Glenbrook’s £40m scheme at Queens Dock

A £40m scheme to build 257 new apartments on Liverpool waterfront is “borderline viable” the developer claimed today, blaming soaring construction costs.

Glenbrook Property and Barings Real Estate secured planning consent to press on with the development at Queens Dock, just south of the city centre. It would see the construction of two eight-storey blocks.

However, there was a row between councillors on the planning committee after the developer was also told it also wouldn’t have to pay almost £767,000 to the city previously agreed under what is called a Section 106 payments.

Section 106 payments are legal contracts with local authorities that see developers pay an agreed amount for wider public benefit. The money may be used to improve local amenities or physical improvements to public realm in the area around the scheme.

Glenbrook had asked to pay no cash under Section 106. It claimed that rising construction costs meant the margins on the scheme would be wafer thin. A council viability assessor turned down this request but said the firm would be able to pay a reduced amount of £149,000.

Queens Dock
Glenbrook’s planned development at Queens Dock, Liverpool

The committee approved the development, and the Section 106 reduction, but not before strong objections were voiced by a number of councillors.

An amendment put forward by Lib Dem member Pat Maloney, and backed by Green councillor Anna Key and Liberal member Billy Lake, suggested the scheme only be approved on condition the original amount agreed under Section 106 was paid.

“I think Christmas has come early for these developers,” said Cllr Maloney. “This is a prestige development on the waterfront and I don’t think the city should effectively subsidise this development.”

That view also drew support from two Labour councillors for the area in which the project is located – Cabinet Member for Development and Housing, Cllr Sarah Doyle and Cllr Steve Munby, who told the Liverpool Echo: “Developers must be laughing all the way to the bank when they deal with Liverpool City Council.”

Addressing the meeting, Stuart McCrone, projects director at Glenbrook, said: “This scheme at the moment is borderline viable. There is an agreed (Section 106) contribution and we have spent nine months in discussions with planning officers over this.”

The dissenting councillors were accused of playing politics. Cllr Joe Hanson said: “This agreement comes from an independent assessment and I’m concerned that Cllr Maloney is trying to bring politics into this planning process and I think it’s deplorable.”

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