Development Disasters

As the political leaders of Liverpool and Wirral (and, for all I know, leaders of other councils) head off to the South of France for the MIPIM developers knees up, major companies are taking a dimmer view of the event. It has been reported that concerns have been raised that this boozefest (held in Cannes) is merely an unjustifiable jolly for the delegates who attend.

Thus, the timing of the article in the Guardian – belated though it was – on the scale of development scandals in northern cities, must have made uncomfortable reading for elected representatives and officials seeking again to justify an expensive “mission” in search of investment. Even more unfortunate was the stark emphasis in the article on Liverpool – six of the nine projects featured were in Liverpool itself. This was not “news” to those many keen local observers who have been complaining about this situation for many, many months. However, despite the Trappist silence of the “Echo” on the developers’ mugging of the city, aided and abetted by the council, we now have media heavyweights on the case – the Guardian, the Financial Times, Granada Television, and Private Eye.

None of this seems to impact upon Liverpool Council, who seem unperturbed by the swelling tide of criticism. Caught between the pressure of austerity and the siren promises of fly-by-night “businessmen”, the council seems oblivious to what is blindingly obvious to everyone else. Little wonder then that they are repeatedly charged with malfeasance rather than culpable ignorance, such is their malign neglect of the council taxpayers’ interests.

Is it, for example, deliberate deceit or wishful thinking when statements are made as fact when they are fiction? Take the former International Garden Festival (IGF) site. It is a potentially prime location on the banks of the Mersey, and close to the city centre. We are told it is to have amongst other things, 2500 homes, and a ferry terminal. All that is needed is (another!) development partner.

As an aside, it is recognised that this former city tip would need remediation. That is true as the present site is toxic. The process of cleaning it up is very expensive as Sefton Council discovered fifteen years ago when ALL of its national funding for a new housing estate was swallowed up in remediation costs. There is money available for this kind of work, but not to Liverpool council and its boastful mayor. It could only be accessed through the metromayor, Steve Rotheram.

Likewise, the proposed ferry terminal. Many will recall the Mersey Ferries calling at the Festival site in its heyday thirty three years ago. Yet the ferries, as part of the city-region’s transport system, fall within the gift of the metromayor, not the local authority. Remember that the mayor has constantly obstructed and insulted the metromayor. One must wonder whether or not the latter is willing to play the mayor’s games of hyperbole, or accede to his diet of public relations drivel. I suspect not.

It does not stop at the IGF. Grandiose plans have been revealed in connection with the proposed Bramley Moore stadium. These have included a new rail station (again, within the bailiwick of Steve Rotheram) and a host of new access works. Given the council’s failure to extract Section 106 monies from developers, and the cost of these works, finance could only come via city-region funding. This would be a cost, therefore, to council tax payers throughout the city-region. Their priorities would need to be shelved to cater for the Liverpool mayor’s fantasy football finance venture. Funding meant for the good of the city-region would become a benefit for billionaires.

No sensible person sets their face against development for the sake of it. Development ought to be, however, realistic and affordable, appropriate and consensual. Hyped-up builders’ bilge, and developers’ deceits, have no place in a meaningful dialogue between the electorate and their representatives. The current claptrap simply does not cut the mustard.

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