Council begins legal action against Chinatown company

Liverpool City Council has begun legal action against Chinatown Development Company Ltd, the tenant company of the stalled New Chinatown development.

The city council has instructed solicitors to start legal proceedings to forfeit two leases on the city centre site.

At the same time, a statutory demand has been issued for the outstanding sum of £950,000 owed to the council by developers Chinatown Development Company Ltd.

If Chinatown Development Company Ltd do not make the payment by Thursday, August 10 the council will apply to court to ‘wind up’ the company and if the petition is successful, the court will put an official receiver in charge of the liquidation.

In this event, the Council would seek repayment and look to work with the liquidator to find a solution to the stalled site as the city council also owns the freehold and is the landlord of the leases.

The city council’s position has hardened in light of new legal advice and financial information which means the site, which has planning permission for 790 new homes, will not be marketed for sale and the council will not be seeking to use Compulsory Purchase Powers, as set out in a cabinet report drafted six weeks ago.

Councillor Ann O’Byrne, Deputy Mayor of Liverpool, said: “Liverpool City Council has explored every avenue and worked with the developer in the proposed transfer of the Chinatown site to a new buyer, but insufficient progress has been made.

“There are a number of challenges which could affect the transfer to any new buyer and in light of new legal advice and financial information, the approach to market the site has become unviable.  

“We have sought reassurances from Chinatown Development Company Ltd but regrettably an agreement could not be reached and the council has been left with no choice but to take this new course of action. 

“The council remain committed to the redevelopment of the site and if a liquidator is appointed, we will seek a quick resolution to get the scheme back on track. 

“Although the council has no contractual obligations to any investor, we fully appreciate their concerns and the council will look to work with the liquidator in a proactive way to find a solution to the stalled site.” 

NEW CHINATOWN – TIMELINE:

2015
•         June – Chinatown Development Company Ltd acquires the site, at that time called Tribeca, to create a housing and leisure scheme called New Chinatown.
•         To be delivered over three phases, the scheme is to create a new urban quarter with 790 new homes, 11,246 sqm of commercial and retail floor-space and a 140 bed hotel.
•         September – Chancellor George Osborne promotes New Chinatown project in Chengdu, China.
•         October – UKTI includes New Chinatown project in Northern Powerhouse pitchbook in Chinese trade trip.
•         December – Phase 1 of the scheme is granted detailed planning consent. Outline planning consent is given for phase 2 and 3.
2016  
•         April – A 250 year lease on phase 1 is granted.
•         Summer – Sales agent accused of fraud on the Hong Kong market.
•         August – Chinatown Development Company fails to make staged payment of £475,000.
•         Autumn – Work on site stalls. Building contractor goes into administration.
•         December – Chinatown Development Company fails to make staged payment of £475,000.
2017  
•         June – Liverpool City Council Cabinet report drafted seeking sale of site and CPO powers.
•         Early July –Talks with Chinatown Developments Company Ltd break down.
•         Mid-July – Council receives new legal advice.
•         Friday, July 21 – A statutory demand to Chinatown Development Company Ltd for unpaid sum of £950k is deemed served. Forfeiture notice on two leases for phases 1 and 3 also deemed served.