Liverpool to introduce police checks on developers – but scheme will be voluntary

City Mayor Joe Anderson is keen to allay investor fears over failed projects and one property investment professional has called on investors to hold their nerve amid ‘phenomenal’ opportunities. Tony McDonough reports

Joe Anderson
Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson claims Government planning law restricts what the council can do

 

Police checks on potential developers in Liverpool are to be introduced after a number of high-profile project failures threaten to tarnish Liverpool’s image.

However, the scheme, which will be brought in by the city council in partnership with Merseyside Police, will be voluntary and Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson claims restrictive Government planning laws limit what local authorities can do.

“Government legislation very tightly controls what our planning system can and cannot do and practically reduces the council to a bystander with very little ability to shape and control our city,” Mr Anderson said on Friday.

In the spotlight

The national spotlight fell on the city again this week when the BBC’s Panorama documentary series highlighted failed developments in Liverpool and across the North of England, including the collapsed New Chinatown scheme.

The fallout from a number of failures in the city has led to fears that investors will be more reluctant to invest in Liverpool.

But the director of Liverpool-based Ascot Property Investments, Stuart Howard, has called on investors to remain confident in the ability of northern cities to fulfil major construction projects.

“These stalled developments cannot be allowed to cloud the thriving construction scene in the North West, the continued appetite overseas investors are showing in our region,” said Mr Howard.

Due diligence

Under the scheme announced by the council developers and landowners will soon be the first in the country to be able to voluntarily undertake a police check as they submit plans to the city’s planning authority. It will complement the council’s own due diligence process and will start in the autumn.

Mayor Anderson pointed out that Liverpool has been successful in attracting developments to the city, with more than 180 live schemes worth more than £3bn currently on site.

He added: “We want people to have confidence that the schemes taking place in our city are going to be delivered. We already work very hard with any developer or investor who comes to the city and wants to talk to us. 

As a result, Liverpool is very much ‘open for business’ creating jobs, new homes and opportunities for people.

However, most private sector schemes have absolutely no involvement from the council, except to grant planning permission. So, we want to ask developers to put themselves forward voluntarily for a police check in order to give both their investors, and the city, confidence in the strength of their scheme.

The fact this scheme would be voluntary reflects the weakness of Government Policy in this area.”

Ascot Property Investments director, Stuart Howard

 

Positive picture

Mr Howard, who says Ascot generated more than £100m of development sales in Liverpool in 2017,  said that despite the controversy around a number of projects, there remained “phenomenal” investment opportunities in the city. 

He added: “Without diminishing the seriousness of the failed schemes in the North-West or the bad experiences some investors have had, we cannot allow that to reflect the overwhelmingly bigger positive picture.

“Let’s focus on the good and not the bad –  anything else risks damaging the entire reputation of the property investment sector and wider construction industry in the UK. It is down to all of us – property developers and investment agents – to sell the attractiveness of our region around the world.”

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