Various rumours have been circulating about the future of the ex-Manweb Sports Ground in Thingwall Road. The sad saga of this local greenspace - the freehold of which is owned by Liverpool City Council - has been told several times in our Newsletters since 2011, when the lease (125 years from 1995) was sold by Scottish Power following the closure of the Manweb Sports & Social Club.
The new lessees in 2011 were two private individuals - Chris Chetwood and Paul Pearce - who paid Scottish Power £40,000. This relatively low price was presumably due to the restrictive nature of the lease, which requires the land to be used only for "sports and allied non-residential Sports Club activities" and requires the grassed areas, the pavilion (which, in the event, was demolished following a fire in 2014) and the boundary fences to be kept in good condition.
Instead of complying with the terms of the lease, Chetwood & Pearce sold it, in February 2016, to an Isle of Man 'investment company' - C&PS Limited - for £1 million. The 'C' in C&PS was Charles 'Chucky' Smith, a former Liverpool scrap metal dealer who was, apparently, well known to the City Council. His purchase of the lease was, we believe, motivated by the prospect of a 'deal' (hinted at in our March 2016 Newsletter) brokered by the then Mayor of Liverpool. However, Mr Smith died in January 2017, and control of the company passed to his widow Pauline (the 'P' in C&PS).
In 2018 we described the Council's failure to enforce the terms of the lease - or to repossess the land - as "a major scandal". If planning permission for housing were to be granted, the land would be worth about £8 million. The 2016 'deal' would have brought the Council £2 million, and the Wavertree community a new public open space, and we cannot understand why it has not been pursued. We now hope that the Commissioners - who have been sent in by the government to oversee the City Council's property-related (and other) activities - will be prepared to investigate what has happened, and what can be done to bring the fields, whether in whole or part, back into recreational use.