By Chris Brown, Daily Post Staff
THE rebuilding of Grade II listed cottages on Old Hall Street was last night criticised for being too heavy-handed. Despite getting the go-ahead from Liverpool City Council, a campaigner who fought for the 200-year-old cottages to be saved is concerned that the extensive restoration of the cottages is going too far.
The city council and English Heritage have given permission for the cottages to undergo substantial rebuilding work during a £60m development which includes Liverpool's first five star hotel, an office block and apartment development. One of the three cottages has been demolished and the reclaimed bricks will be used on the two remaining cottages. A protected building survey was carried out before any work was done.
James Hubbard, development director for Beetham who are converting the site said: "Basically, the original structure of 91-95, Old Hall Street will remain. The roof has had to be completely removed after the lead and slate was stolen and the rotten timbers have had to be removed. We are working with Heritage Demolitions who are specialists at working with listed buildings." Originally the plan was to bulldoze all the cottages but after a storm of protest from local historians the site was saved and will now be a pub restaurant.
Pat Moran, chairman of Consideration of Heritage for Merseyside Civic Society said: "The city has a great deal of Georgian heritage which seems to be diminishing. I just hope no more of it goes the same way as the Casartelli building. "When I saw the cottages, I was quite shocked at what Beetham is doing in terms of carefully renovating them."
The hotel will be a 200-room Radisson SAS that will form part of the biggest waterfront scheme since the Royal Liver Building was built. Radisson currently operates 107 hotels and has another 30 under development in 38 countries. The cottages were built as offices at the entrance to Clarke's Basin, the western terminal of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. It featured an unusually shaped southern end which allowed the movement of horse-drawn wagons. The main cargo was coal and the site was occupied for many years by the Wigan Coal and Iron Company. The basin closed in 1886 when the Liverpool Exchange railway station was enlarged. The wharves were severed from the canal and new terminal facilities were built further north. For most of the 20th century, the building formed part of St Paul's Eye Hospital but this was demolished in the 1990s and the cottages have been empty ever since.
A spokesman for Liverpool City Council said: "Beetham has permission to restore it. They are almost totally rebuilding it. This was agreed with English Heritage. It looks quite severe at the moment but is all part of the reconstruction work." A spokeswomen for English Heritage said: "English Heritage have given the go-ahead for a major restoration of the canal cottages. The extensive work is all part of the construction."
The changes were welcomed by the Merseyside Civic Society but they also argued the building which has been demolished - the northernmost and tallest of the three buildings -is "arguably the most interesting" of the three. The site will include 110 flats, costing an average £200,000, with the city's first £1m penthouse on the top. There will also be a nine-storey office block creating 140,000sq ft of commercial floorspace. Construction is scheduled for completion by the end of next year.