Liverpool City Council acquired the 7.6-acre Kings Dock site for just £1 in 2019 and is now ready to push on with its development – while keeping developers at arms length. Tony McDonough reports
A new push to redevelop the Kings Dock site on Liverpool waterfront is to be launched by Liverpool City Council – but with developers as delivery partners only.
In 2000 Kings Dock was a vacant former dock to the south of the Royal Albert Dock, used only as a car park. However, by 2008 it was home to the ACC Liverpool Arena and Convention Centre complex, including the Pullman Hotel, as well as 1,800 apartments.
In 2017, the council took a 999-year lease on the remaining 7.6 acres of vacant land from Homes England. Two years later it paid just £1 for the freehold of the site and set about marketing it to developers.
It divided the land into seven different plots and instructed property consultancy CBRE to find buyers for the sites which ranged from 0.45 acres to 2.79 acres. It said they were ideal for leisure, hotel, residential and office use and offered the potential for up to 600,000 sq ft of development.
By January CBRE had received 20 expressions of interest from investors and developers and the council whittled this down to a shortlist of eight with a view to selling them the plots and letting get on with bringing new schemes out of the ground.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic slowed down the process and then, in early 2021, the damning Max Caller report into the running of the authority was published and questions were raised about its relationships with developers.
Now a new report coming before the city’s cabinet this week outlines a new approach to the development of Kings Dock. Rather than selling off the parcels of land and letting developers drive the vision, the council instead proposed a “managed approach”.
This would involve the council retaining ownership of Kings Dock and employing a retained development manager and master planner to manage the design and feasibility of the projects right through to securing planning consent.
The report said: “It ensures the council retains much greater control in the design and feasibility stages than a disposal to a developer across the whole site.”
It adds: “To be successful, the managed design option will require additional resources, as the council will oversee the design and development roles that would be undertaken by a developer under the managed disposal option and to manage project progress.
“It requires the council to fund 12-24 months of planning and feasibility work at a cost of circa £1m. The council would undertake this additional work at risk but it is likely that the costs would be recoverable against the increased value of the sites when they are sold.”
Once the plans were set in stone and planning permission secured, the council would then look to bring in “carefully selected developers” at the delivery stage.
The report also says: “The project could change the waterfront as it impacts on dock heritage and central visitor economy attractions. It represents the city’s clearest opportunity to reach an international standard in design and development.”
Kings Dock could be a discussion point this week as both Liverpool Mayor Joanne Anderson and council chief executive Tony Reeves join property developers and investors at the MIPIM international expo at Cannes on the French Riviera.