A NEW £100m scheme on Liverpool's Waterfront was yesterday given the green light by city planners.
The Sefton Street Quarter, created by Liverpool-based Vermont Developments, will see the transformation of an under-utilised and low-quality industrial site into a prestigious mixed-use development including a luxury hotel and landmark 22-storey apartment tower.
Family homes, commercial, leisure and retail space together with public realm areas will be built on the two-acre site at the junction of Parliament Street and Sefton Street.
The Vermont team is headed by city living pioneers Paul Bolton and Mark Connor, who previously built-up Charlton Homes and its city centre development arm, Space, before selling it to Irish housebuilder McInerney Homes.
Space was responsible for one of the first major apartment schemes in the centre of Liverpool - the redevelopment of Liverpool's Hatton Garden parcel depot in 2001.
The original design for the Sefton Street Quarter scheme was modified after the city council and building watchdogs argued that it obscured views of the Anglican Cathedral.
Vermont scaled down its plans for a taller, 30-storey tower and revised the top of it so that it had a stepped design to improve sight lines to the Cathedral. The number of houses and underground car parking spaces was also reduced.
Mark Connor, chief executive of Vermont, said: "We had a comprehensive dialogue with the city in order to understand its aspirations for the area and how our scheme could contribute.
"We feel this collaborative approach and the input received from all stakeholders in the process has had tangible benefits on the proposals for the site. We wanted to ensure that the development will provide a lasting and positive legacy for the local community and also the wider city."
He said he was fairly confident that the scheme would be approved - but was always conscious of the fact that somebody could throw in a "wild card".
"There's always a healthy anxiety (at these meetings) but we've been working in conjunction with the city for two or three years," he said.
"If somebody had said we'd got it wrong, then we'd all have got it wrong.
"This wasn't a scheme that we just put on someone's desk and asked for a decision."
Work on the development, which is being funded with a combination of bank and private equity, should start on site within a matter of weeks, with construction phased over three-and-a-half years.
Mr Connor added: "This is a hugely significant scheme that will transform an under-utilised industrial site into a vibrant and sustainable mixed use development, generating considerable additional employment and opportunity for the local community.
"We feel the scheme will both extend the boundary of the city centre, and act as a major catalyst for further investment on Parliament Street, Sefton Street and beyond.
"Sefton Street Quarter is within easy walking distance of Kings Waterfront and the new arena and convention centre. With the anticipated Cultural Quarter also intended for the area, it's clear the critical mass of the city centre is changing as all the pieces of the regeneration jigsaw come into place."
Because of its size, the scheme will now be referred to the Department of Communities and Local Government, or effectively, what was the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, for final approval, although this is not expected to be a problem.
Mr Connor said: "It has to be referred because it exceeds 150 units in total. There's also a policy designating that area for employment use, but we are going to be providing 300 plus jobs in the leisure, commercial and retail parts of the scheme so you would hope that the DCLG will say that's one of the boxes ticked.
"We don't see any further hurdles that we have to jump. I'm fairly confident."
Huge plan will include nearly 400 homes
* 145-bedroom 4-star boutique hotel.
* 30,000 sq ft of commercial and leisure accommodation.
* 265 underground car parking spaces
* 6,000 sq ft of neighbourhood retailing
* A high quality public plaza
* 374 homes which include townhouses and family apartments
* 53 homes available under a unique retained equity scheme
* 762 temporary construction jobs, with a commitment to local recruitment and training