Developers’ fury at one-bed flats limit to tackle empty city apartments scandal
LIVERPOOL planners have imposed a ceiling on the spiralling number of one-bedroom flats being built in the city centre.
Developers have been told their new projects can include a maximum of only 40% one-bedroom apartments.
It is part of a new drive to promote more family-style homes in the heart of Liverpool, rather than an abundance of one-person exclusive flats.
City council planning manager Nigel Lee announced the new 40% limit at a meeting of Liverpool planning committee.
It will mean new developments seeking approval in the city centre will have to contain at least 60% of homes with two or more bedrooms to ensure acceptance.
Mr Lee was responding to criticisms from politicians about the high number of unoccupied flats in the city centre.
He said only 12% of apartments are unoccupied – far fewer than levels closer to 25% in Manchester or Leeds. Property speculators are thought to be responsible for keeping many of the new apartments empty.
Mr Lee said Manchester had already introduced a 40% limit on one-bedroomed flats, and Liverpool had decided to apply the same ratio.
The limit will not apply to existing buildings undergoing conversion or renovation, and the 40% figure may not apply in some city suburbs.
Labour councillor Anna Rothery told the committee even the 40% figure was too high.
And Cllr Vi Bebb added: “Thousands of flats have been built and a lot of them are empty,” she said.
Florence Gersten, of Liverpool’s Save Our City Campaign, said: “There should be a government directive, or at least advice on the issue of the over-building of flats.
“I certainly think a city centre full of empty flats is very undesirable and should become an issue to be dealt with. The flats may well be being purchased, but they are often not purchased by Liverpool citizens.”
Many are snapped up by property speculators, often from Ireland or southern England, who prefer to leave them vacant rather than rent them to tenants.
Currently the status of apartments – whether they are lived in or left vacant – is not a planning matter.
Nigel Lee added: “Very few apartments in Liverpool are unsold. Some people prefer to keep them vacant. If they are empty, is that a major issue?”
Jenny Douglas, planning director at urban regeneration company Liverpool Vision, said last night: “It will be interesting to see how the market reacts to this.
“Developers need to be able to respond to the market and at the moment a combination of investor demand and affordability issues is resulting in a continued requirement for one-bed units.
“If we want to ensure a strong city centre residential community however, we need a choice of one, two and even three- bed apartments, and there is increasing evidence that as the Liverpool city centre residential market matures, occupiers are demanding more choice and improved quality.”
Donna Cooney, of KMC Residential, in Liverpool, was worried about the restrictions hitting first-time buyers in the city.
“In theory, the one-bedroom flat attracts first-time buyers who want to get their foot on the property ladder.
“I hope the proposals wouldn't restrict them getting their foot on the ladder. There is a demand for one-bedroom flats. We would be disappointed if they imposed restrictions and we think it’s a bit short-sighted.
“I wouldn't exactly say there is an over supply of one-bedroom flats in Liverpool, and why do we have to follow what Manchester does? A one-bedroom flat will attract a single person or a couple and is the cheapest way on to the ladder.”
Phil Lawton, director at Sutton Kersh in Liverpool – specialising in city centre residential properties – said: “It is not the council’s place to interfere in the market. We should build what people want to buy. The overriding factor is that any developer should research the market and build what is right.”
The new policy emerged during a debate about a plan by developers Tara House to construct 96 apartments on a site in city centre Oldham Street.
The committee approved the scheme, which will see 40 studio or one-bedroom flats – a fraction more than 40%. The rest will be two or three-bedroom apartments.
Oct 25 2007 by Larry Neild, Liverpool Daily Post