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Developers desert 'chaotic' city

Liverpool's chaotic planning policy is forcing developers, investors and architects to turn their backs on the city, an influential lobby group claims.

The uncompromising attack, launched by Downtown Liverpool in Business (DLB), follows another 'bemusing move' by the city's planners (AJ 10.2.05) - the latest in a long line of controversial decisions in the city.

Planners are recommending refusal for a scheme by the Ratcliffe Groves Partnership to demolish a dilapidated Welsh Presbyterian chapel and replace it with a smaller substitute and 37 new apartments. This proposal is a resubmitted version of a previous scheme that was thrown out at committee last October.

These latest designs have faced heavy local criticism and it appears the planners have bowed to the pressure of the protesters, who want to see the vandalised chapel fully restored.

However, elsewhere in the city large swathes of good-quality Victorian terraced housing are being bulldozed, despite local objections, to make way for modern homes, as part of the government's Pathfinder project (AJ 12.5.05).

According to DLB chairman Frank McKenna, the situation is 'madness' and is putting off future investment in the city. 'Planning policy for Liverpool is totally flawed and needs to be rethought as a matter of urgency, ' he said.

'It's not business-friendly to allow a developer to spend half a million pounds, only to pull the rug from under the proposal at the last minute. It sends out all the wrong signals to potential investors. If that continues, there is a real risk that they will turn their backs on the city just when it needs them most.

'The chapel would have to close without this project to support it, and [the developer] was encouraged to work up and present this scheme, which cost it £500,000, ' he added.

McKenna is also pointing the finger at deputy prime minister John Prescott and the Housing Management Renewal Initiative guidelines for scuttling the chapel project.

'Central government cannot dictate to developers where they can build, ' he said. 'We should be embracing forward-thinking, dynamic developers, not turning them away.'

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