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New Chinatown Scheme Turns From Sweet to Sour

Mark Fletcher, senior associate in the commercial litigation team at Russell-Cooke, comments

The last few months have seen the enthusiasm and optimism surrounding the New Chinatown development in Liverpool replaced by negativity, acrimony and blame.

The difficulties and disputes between the freeholder, Liverpool City Council, and the developer of the site, Chinatown Development Company (CDC), have increasingly been played out in public. Now, all parties involved in the project have to consider the serious potential reputational, financial and legal consequences they face.

The regeneration scheme is based near the Anglican Cathedral. The project was marketed as being “the burgeoning energy and dynamism of modern China transplanted into the heart of an historic World Heritage City”. The site had lain derelict for many years and was identified as a key Northern Powerhouse project in the city home to the oldest Chinatown in Europe.

CDC, a special purpose vehicle in the North Point Global Group (NPG), took over the project in 2015 and owns three leases on the site, one for each of the outlined three phases that made up the project. In December 2015 Liverpool council approved plans for the first phase, comprising 790 apartments, 120,000 square feet of commercial space and a 131-bed hotel, and also gave outline planning consent for the two further phases. In November 2016 NPG announced that it had secured substantial foreign investment for the project through off-plan sales of more than half of the apartments in the first phase.

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