THE OLD POLICE STATION: OUR STATEMENT
(as distributed to members of Liverpool City Council's
Planning Committee on 8th January 2019)
1. This is one of the most controversial proposals to have arisen in Wavertree in the forty years since our Society was founded. We regard the building - the Old Police Station - as one of the key features of the Wavertree Village Conservation Area. We welcomed its restoration in 1992, when it became a restaurant. We watched with disappointment as it degenerated into a hard-drinking establishment, and more recently as unsightly UPVC windows were installed in place of the sliding-sash originals.
2. Local opposition to the current planning application is based on the proposed use of the building. Residents and business people alike are worried about the impact it will have on the surrounding area. Many of them have written to the Council expressing their fears.
3. The Case Officer Report makes no reference to the Wavertree Society. It was presumably written before our comments (other than with regard to the windows) were received. There is no mention of our suggestion that the advice of the Police, Probation Service and social workers should be sought. Can we have an explanation of why such organisations were not asked for their views on this planning application? If they were, in fact, consulted, can we be told what their advice was, and why it was not mentioned in the Case Officer Report?
4. In the comments we submitted on 17th December, we emphasised the need for on-site supervision and support, 24/7, if the stated aims of the Vitality Homes project - "abstinence recovery" and "reintegration into the community" - are to be achieved. We suggested the provision of a manager's flat within the building.
5. The submitted 'Vitality Homes Ethos' and 'Oaktree Developments' documents are, in our view, badly-written and imprecise. It is difficult to see how the proposed Condition 5 could ever be enforced by the City Council. The Oaktree document states (page 3) that "The offer of accommodation will be made to those persons who have completed or attending a drug recovery program whilst also making the offer to those persons who have been released from prison or likely to be released in the near future". If the shortage of such accommodation is so acute (as stated on page 2) why can't a much more specific promise be made - such as "The offer of accommodation will be made to those persons who have completed a drug recovery programme"? This, we understood, was what was initially being proposed.
6. Referring to the proposed Condition 7, we are very puzzled. It states "This permission shall endure for the benefit of Ms K Stewart (Vitality Homes) only", the reason given being "the special circumstances of the applicant". Yet nowhere in the Case Officer Report is Ms Stewart's name mentioned. What are these "special circumstances"? Certainly not a track record. As the report mentions (on page 2) Vitality Homes was only set up in August 2018.
7. In our comments, we expressed the view that 17 bedrooms is too many, given the limited size of the building and the shortage of external amenity space. We asked that advice
be sought from qualified people, such as psychologists and social workers, as to whether the space available to each individual resident will be sufficient. We also questioned whether the location - close to numerous licensed premises - was really suitable for the use proposed. Again, we asked that advice be sought from relevant organisations, such as the Police and the Probation Service. We do not think it is right for planning permission to be granted until this has been done.
8. Finally, we drew attention to the lack of on-site (or off-site) car parking provision. We do not feel that the impact this will have on the surrounding residential streets is something that can simply be ignored.
9. In view of all of these concerns, the controversy surrounding the proposal, the crucial importance of the quality of management, and the apparent lack of relevant experience on the part of the applicant, we do not feel that approval of this planning application can be justified without further evidence of the project's viability and sustainability. In particular, we cannot understand why - if the Council is convinced that there are no grounds for refusing the application - planning permission cannot be granted for a temporary period, to allow its impact on the wider area to be assessed. This would be a far more conventional planning condition than the 'personal' Condition 7 that is currently proposed.