The Main Bridewell, and the ‘Dale St shops site’ Liverpool
It is not every day that we can celebrate the preservation, restoration, and rebirth of an iconic and historic Liverpool building. This was indeed the case though following some superb restoration work by Jamworks Ltd and Vermont Construction on the Main Bridewell in Cheapside, with the stated and well publicised intention of opening as student accommodation.
The author of this blog supported this move to save and utilise an historic building such as The Bridewell. I praised the developers on the workmanship in restoring the Bridewell. I queried the change from the planned student accommodation. I wished the operators well for their hotel operation. I lamented the loss of Georgian buildings on Dale St but welcomed the proposals for redevelopment and ‘reassembly’. I live in close proximity to both sites discussed.
In September 2009 the Liverpool Echo reports that the Bridewell has been purchased by Wirral-based Students Lettings Point for £450,000.
The story then develops leading to some excellent restoration, but also to as yet unanswered questions.
Despite concerns relating to heritage listing and necessary works to modernise etc. the developers gained planning permission in January 2014 to convert the former prison into student accommodation. Main concerns centred around lowering of window sills – not sure if this actually happened as, I believe, students ‘right to light’ differed from that which would apply to a hotel.
Progress on the Main Bridewell was rapid and the quality of the restoration was praised by many. Jamworks actively advertised the forthcoming student accommodation:
However in March 2015 it was then announced via the Liverpool Echo, as a suprise to many, that the Bridewell would open as a hotel operated by a company called ‘Stay Central’ – whom have a website http://www.staycentral.com/ but appear to operate via Facebook. The hotel opened for Grand National weekend this year.
There was no mention in the Echo story as to why the plans for student accommodation seem to have been abandoned, and no mention of the lack of planning permission to operate as a hotel.
Even the architects Falconer Chester Hall said ‘didn’t know anything about it’
The Planning Dept. at Liverpool City Council did not know about this change of use either:
21st April – ‘The local planning authority has not received any applications to use the above premises as a hotel. We are trying to find out who the property may have been sold to so we can advise that such a use would require planning permission’
The Echo reported on this story this on 13th May 2015 stating that Liverpool Council had now contacted the operators informing them they needed to apply for planning permission to operate as an 85 room hotel
A letter to the council’s planning department on behalf of Jamworks explains: “The conversion to a hotel has overtaken the previously approved scheme for student accommodation on grounds of viability and long term objectives by the client company to deliver a unique brand of hotel accommodation within the city, comprising the ‘StayCentral.Com’ brand.”
A few weeks later on Aug 5th we see this on Twitter, again advertising The Bridewell as student accommodation:
Jamworks are also once again advertising it as student accommodation on their website
It subsequently comes to light from Liverpool City Council that:
‘An application was submitted on 5th of July but it was not accompanied with a correct set of plans or appropriate supporting information (information on management of the building, servicing and delivery strategy for a hotel use etc)’
The application is currently invalid awaiting the correct set of plans and supporting documents’.
It waits to be seen what happens in September.
Dale St shops site
Whilst all of the above is going on the Dale St shops site, purchased for £1, still sits vacant and increasingly litter and debris strewn.
Adjacent to the Bridewell this was another long neglected site – a Grade II Listed Georgian terrace of c1819 shops but sadly in a very bad state at the time this story begins.
‘The Mayoral Cabinet will be asked, on Friday 6 December, to approve new proposals which would see the Grade II listed ‘Dale Street Shops’ (87-95 Dale Street and 2-6 Cheapside) carefully restored and brought back into use.
Jamworks Ltd are about to start work on the £5 million conversion of the adjacent Grade II* listed Bridewell building, and if the deal for the Dale Street Shops is given the go-ahead, they would deliver the two schemes in tandem, creating a combined site, comprising private residential units on the upper floors and office and traditional retails units on the ground floor.
‘As part of the deal, the city council would make a grant of £275,000 available to the developer from its Buildings at Risk Capital programme to make the project financially viable’ – Liverpool City Council
‘Robust background and financial checks will be undertaken by the city council, alongside full due diligence on the detail of the proposal.’
Demolition started in January 2014 and was completed soon afterwards. It transpires that the original named construction contractors, Vermont, who completed the successful and very well received restoration and refurbishment of the previously derelict Bridewell were not given the opportunity to complete the Dale st shops contract, and demolition was carried out direct by Jamworks. The reasons for this are not known, nor is it known if the Council were/are aware of this. Signage around the site name John Turner Construction as the new construction contractors.
I, as a local resident, have continually sort reassurances about the delays. Liverpool City Council has kindly responded to requests for information, none of which has been indicated as being confidential:
May 2015 – ‘…..confident that the Council’s position is protected here – and, more importantly, the shops, from a heritage perspective. I understand from previous correspondence that the shops have been dismantled, rather than demolished, and can be rebuild – which is Jamworks intention. The City Council can step in, if the development is incomplete by the completion date.
– I’d caution against doing anything that could jeopardise Jamworks obtaining agreement on financing the development. It’s in everyone’s interest that this development is completed according to the timescale in development agreement. If, for whatever reason, the Council has to step in, it could take longer and cost more for the development to be complete – and the shops brought back in to use.’
May 2015 ‘…..my most recent correspondence with the developer ‘Jamworks’ concerning the Dale Street Shops site has indicated that financing is an issue and needs to be agreed with their external funders in order for the scheme to progress. I do not have more specific details. It is a surprise that the enabling works and site clearance commenced without the appropriate financing being in place to ensure completion of the scheme by the agreed long stop date…..
The developer has not yet responded to the question when the works are likely to recommence although there is no reason to suspect that the scheme has stalled indefinitely. As indicated there is a legal agreement in place requiring the scheme is delivered within a agreed period and any Council funding under the section 57 Listed Building grant is only eligible for payment once practical completion is achieved. I understand the Council, as freeholder, has step-in rights under the development agreement that would be triggered in the event that the development remains incomplete by the scheduled completion date’
May 2015 and the Echo runs a story…. ‘Work on Dale St shops site to ‘start in months’ despite demolition of historic listed building’
In July further correspondence from Liverpool City Council:
At August the site, on one of the city’s premier streets and directly facing the Council offices, is still an eyesore for both locals and tourists alike.
To date Jamworks have provided limited information on the delays other than this back on 19th June of this year:
This appears to be at odds with the Council message that the delay is due to issues with funding.
Dale St has had some notable successes of late and I hope this eventually joins them to the satisfaction of all parties involved. The Bridewell and ‘shops site’ do though raise possible questions, I’ll leave you to consider your own.