Larry Neild - Action demanded as work grinds to halt on biggest city scheme since Liverpool One

A LEADING figure from Liverpool’s Chinese community today called on Mayor Joe Anderson to order an independent inquiry after work came to a halt on what was hailed as the biggest redevelopment project in the city since Liverpool One.

Brian Wong, co founder of the Liverpool Chinatown Business Association, has asked the Liverpool mayor what he will do to rescue the £200m scheme that is supposed to transform Europe’s oldest Chinatown.

I want to know what you and the city council will do to rescue the project, particularly when there has already been so much invested from Asia

With endorsement from the mayor and the city council, the project by a local company called North Point Global, generated international publicity.

The huge development site, close to the Anglican Cathedral, promised up to 800 townhouses and apartments as well as a hotel, restaurants, a Chinese market, food court, and commercial space, surrounded by landscaped gardens.

The first phase was intended to be delivered by the middle of this year. Instead is silent with two contractors involved in the project both now in administration and work halted.

Wong told Liverpool Confidential: “We need to get to the bottom of what is going on with this project. As well as being a big blow to Chinatown and Liverpool’s reputation, a lot of investors from China have already paid large sums of money for a stake in the development. I want to know what protection their investments have in the light of these latest developments.”

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Movement: A CGI showing a sunken street in Liverpool's new Chinatown PR handout
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Stagnant: How the North Point Global scheme looks today Liverpool Confidential

Wong, a deputy lord lieutenant of Merseyside, has also written about the collapse to the Chinese Consul General’s office in Manchester.

In his letter to the Chinese government’s official representatives in the North West, Wong wrote: “This is a bleak stage of our £200 million development promised by North Point Global and fully supported by the Liverpool City Council.”

Wong told the consul general’s office he is forming a Liverpool Chinatown Failed Development Committee “to help and support investors from UK and Hong Kong to seek compensations.

Wong, in his plea to the mayor, referred to extensive advertising in China aimed at attracting investment in the project from Asia.

Wong has told the mayor: “I would like you to investigate a fully independent inquiry into the situation surrounding the New Chinatown Development.

“One of the main aspects used to attract investors from China region, and widely used in publicity, was endorsement for the scheme from Liverpool City Council. It is for that reason I had written to Cllr Gary Millar voicing my concerns. Indeed on one full page advertorial published in Hong Kong and China, seeking investors, the city endorsement and accompanied by a photograph of Gary Millar, was used.

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Advertisements in Far East newspapers seeking investors for the £200m Liverpool Chinatown project
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"I want to know what you and the city council will do to rescue the project, particularly when there has already been so much invested from Asia.

“Investment from the China region is important, not just for Liverpool, but for the UK, and my fear is that the collapse of the New Chinatown Project will determine further investments, particularly in Liverpool.

“The news of the collapse of the contractors on this project is a bleak day for this oldest Chinatown in Europe. I believe this matter needs your attention as a matter of urgency.”

A city council spokesman said: “Liverpool City Council is extremely concerned at the lack of progress at the new Chinatown site. Various options are now being considered including how best to ensure the future delivery of the site.”

Liverpool Confidential has asked North Point Global to clarify when work will resume, and what will happen to any investment money already paid by overseas clients. A reply is awaited, but in the meantime NPG released a lengthy statement about its New Chinatown scheme.

It said: “The board of North Point Global Group have become concerned about negative press reports circulating in respect of their New Chinatown development in Liverpool and wish to clarify the current position in order to protect the interests of the group including its shareholders, investors, partners and buyers.”

In their statement NPG described how negotiations had been taking place to sell the scheme, after an offer had been made by a joint venture comprising Your Housing Group (YHG), a Liverpool based registered social landlord, and WElink

“After some five months of negotiations and no end in sight the group concluded that it was in their best interests to withdraw from the sale because there was no likelihood at all that it would ever complete because YHG/WElink actually had neither the approval nor the money to proceed,” said the NPG statement.

“The group is very surprised that Liverpool City Council has ‘deep concerns’ over the current status of the New Chinatown project. They were involved in tri-partite negotiations with YHG/WElink almost from day one, they were aware of the statements made by Stephen Haigh (YHG executive director) which, like the Group, they relied upon and they are aware of the costs that have been incurred and the enormous disruption to the construction timetable. The Group is committed to working to a satisfactory resolution and completion of New Chinatown for all the benefits it will bring to the city.”