Calls for new property ‘taskforce’ after Signature Living troubles

Four top Liverpool developers today back calls for a body to be set up to regulate major city property schemes.

The calls for a new taskforce for Liverpool are from firms building projects across the region, and come following the collapse of the parent company of Lawrence Kenwright's Signature Living.

It was revealed last week revealed that Signature Living Hotel Ltd – company behind Lawrence Kenwright's network of 60 hotels and developments, owed over £113m when it fell into administration.

It was the latest setback to the city's development scene, which has been scarred by problems in recent years.

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Now, developers at the helm of major property firms including Legacie Developments, Mersey Regeneration and Romal Capital, have joined calls for a new taskforce to regulate property development in the city.

Legacie founder John Morley said firms like his "should welcome regulation".

Mr Morley is responsible for the flagship £90m Parliament Square scheme in Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle, and said: “We’ve said before that a panel should be created to consider major developments in the city and it should be led by people who have successfully delivered these sorts of projects before.

Legacie developments' Parliament Square scheme in the Baltic Triangle

“Developers should work with planning officials and we would be happy to assist where we can.

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"There has been a lot of concern and negativity around developments failing but there are also so many success stories which should be recognised.

"We live in a great city and we have a great future but we are keen that any major construction projects are regulated. Developers should welcome regulation.”

Adam Sutton, the Crosby-born founder and managing director of Adam Sutton Estates, said: “A body to monitor proposed new construction schemes, particularly residential development, is essential.

Crosby born estate agent Adam Sutton, who sells millions of pounds worth of property

"The collapse of too many development sites will no doubt be impacting investor confidence and when it comes to people who were thinking of buying property in the city.

"Regulation will be a good thing but we also need to remember to celebrate all of the positive and successful developments taking place.”

Greg Malouf, CEO of Romal Capital, whose schemes include Quay Central in Liverpool Waters, said: "We support the idea of a task force or a body to work with developers in the city.

"I think this is an important step but it is essential that it includes credible developers with a track record of delivery, council officials and people with expertise and experience in the sector."

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Gerard Heffey, managing director of residential developer Mersey Regeneration, said his firm welcomed any new organisation set up to work with the construction sector in the city.

He added: "It is the logical and right step forward given the concerns around certain developments stalling and questions around the funding models used by companies like Signature Living.

"It isn’t exclusive to Liverpool though so perhaps something needs to be established on a national level. We need to do what we can to instil confidence in the sector so that it can thrive.”

The Shankly Hotel and other Signature Living venues reopened at the weekend despite the issues, with the company trading through administration.

Lib Dem leader Richard Kemp called for a new taskforce of institutional investors to be created in a bid to solve the city's development problems.

His letter to city Mayor Joe Anderson said: "Although most of these problems were not caused by the City Council it is nevertheless our responsibility to put them right because there is no other organisation that can do this.

"The alternative is to have a new wave of poorly financed speculators buying up assets on the cheap and also of some assets never being developed and being left, like the Paramount scheme in London Road, in an increasing dangerous and unsightly state.

"We need to bring into our city experienced institutional investors who can evaluate these schemes commercially and bring their expertise and know how into play with these problems.

"Liverpool desperately needs long term and stable investors like the insurance companies and big long-term developers like Grosvenor and Bruntwood to come in and work with us.

"We also need to try and bring forward the company administrators who have individual legal responsibilities to their individual sets of debtors into a partnership with the council which might unlock a better return of some assets to those whose investment hopes haven so cruelly abused."

Last week, Mr Kenwright spoke for the first time since six of his companies went into administration.

He said: "He said: "While certain parts of the group may be in administration, Signature Living will continue to operate on and after July 4th in line with Government guidelines on social distancing and health and safety generally in the hospitality sector.
"The measures we have put in place at the Shankly hotel, the Eden roof Garden and Alma de Cuba will provide safe social distancing for all our customers and we look forward to welcoming guests from this Saturday.

"We also guarantee that all events, including weddings, will take place as planned at our venues, subject to the laws around Covid 19 allowing them to.
"Furthermore, in relation to the company’s financial position generally, it is worth noting that the value of our overall 'bricks and mortar' assets significantly outweighed our liabilities pre Covid.

"While the property market may have changed in the last three months, we believe we will trade through the current challenges and in time the asset values will return to their former levels."

He added: "It is also important to highlight that we have continued working hard on our developments, in fact, pre Covid we were operating five hotels plus the Alma de Cuba bar/restaurant, within the next 2 months we will be operating a total of eight hotels plus Alma de Cuba.
"While the legal process we are subject to prevents me from commenting further at this time, I look forward to setting the record straight in greater detail once this crisis has passed.

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"In the meantime my team and I will continue to build on the many years of hard work we have spent growing the Signature Living brand and ensuring our business survives Covid 19."

Signature Living declined to comment further.