MANWEB PLAYING FIELDS:
THE UNANSWERED QUESTIONS
In our March 2016 Newsletter, we reported on 'A Way Forward' for the former Olive Mount Sports Ground in Thingwall Road. In November 2018 we gave more information: the lease of the land had been sold by its private Liverpool owners to an Isle of Man based company. Since that time, we have done our best to remind Liverpool City Council of their powers and responsibilities as freeholder of the site. However, despite three emails to the Council's newly-appointed Chief Executive, Tony Reeves, we have yet to receive any answers to our questions.
These are the points we have made:
1. Without a change in the terms of the lease, and without the benefit of planning permission for non-recreational development, the value of the land would be (at most) £40,000, which is the price paid for the lease by Chris Chetwood and Paul Pearce when they purchased it from Scottish Power in 2011.
2. With a change in the lease to allow 'non-sports-club' use, and the grant of planning permission for housing development, the value of the land would be in the region of £8 million.
3. In early 2016 a source within the City Council suggested that a 'deal' might be done, whereby the lessee, the Council and the local community would all benefit. Simply put, this would involve the Council granting planning permission for private housing development on 50 percent of the site (the whole of which is classified as Green Space in the UDP). The basis of the 'deal' seems to have been that, with the benefit of this permission, the land would be worth £4 million. Of this amount, £2 million would go to the Council (as freeholder - by way of payment for the freehold, or for amending the terms of the existing lease) and £2 million would go to the lessee/developer. The community would get the benefit of the remaining 50 percent of the land - which should, we argued in 2016, be the portion closest to the Thingwall Road boundary - as it would be retained by the Council (or handed over to a charitable trust) and designated as public open space.
4. Although we heard nothing more about this proposal, it would seem that the idea had been communicated by the Council both to the existing lessee and to a potential new lessee. As we discovered many months later, the lease was sold by Messrs Chetwood & Pearce, in February 2016, to C&PS Ltd (an Isle of Man company) for £1 million. In effect, the anticipated £2 million 'lessee's/developer's profit' was being split between them.
5. We understand that the Company Director of C&PS Ltd was Mr Charles Francis Smith, who was well-known to the City Council (having formerly been a businessman in Liverpool) and who also had contacts with local developers. Sadly the next stage in the process failed to materialise, because Mr Smith died in January 2017.
We have asked Mr Reeves to confirm whether this summary of the situation bears any relation to the City Council's understanding of what has happened, and could happen in the future. All we have had, so far, is three brief emails, the latest of which, dated 30th October 2020, said simply: "really sorry that no-one has come back to you on this. I will chase this up".