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St Luke's wedding hotel plan slammed

'At Risk' church needs urgent action, but let's show some respect, say campaigners

Published on March 27th 2014.

St Luke's wedding hotel plan slammed

THE bombed out church as a boutique hotel and wedding venue? That’s the latest idea for one of Liverpool’s best known and loved buildings. 

And if the wrath of God is currently awaited, the council’s Lib Dem leader Richard Kemp and local heritage campaigner Wayne Colquhoun have pitched into a debate which is rapidly becoming a plague of locusts. 

“The bombed out church is cherished for what it stands for, as a memorial to those citizens who lost their lives in the Blitz on this city. Transforming it into a hotel and wedding venue does not respect the heritage of the building and all that it stands for,” said Councillor Kemp.

'You can't just give away the city's treasures to the first person who comes along with a few bob and says hand it over or it will fall down. It is not scouse Pound Land' - Wayne Colquhoun

“It has earned its place as a time warp and nothing should happen that disrespects what it stands for. If it can’t remain as a roofless bombed out church you could say you might as well pull it down – though I would be the first to fight such a move.” 

It has emerged that Lawrence Kenwright, the man restoring the old White Star Building, Albion House into a luxury hotel, is the mystery developer who has proposed this scheme for St Luke’s. 

He envisages a new roof and a hotel with a bridal suite complex and wedding venue within the church walls, made out of glass, with steel beams that would support the existing structure and “keep it up for another 100 years”. 


Wayne Colquhoun, who runs the Circa 1900 antiques shop, in the India Buildings, concurs that urgent action is needed to stop the building from collapsing but says: “St Luke's is regarded by the nation's watchdog, English Heritage, as a monument to the war dead. 

“Sometimes some things are not objects to make profit from.” 

Mr Colquhoun says the Leece Street consecrated church, built in 1811, has been on the English Heritage “At Risk” register for more than a decade owing to the state of its interior. 

“This building was originally left as it was to commemorate the Blitz so as a result it has been left open to the elements,” he said.

“A building is designed to have weather falling on the outside of it, not the inside. It is getting weather falling on the inside where it wasn't designed to be so is falling into a very detrimental state. 

He added: “Like the 25,000 people who have signed a petition, I want to see it stay how it is, but I do understand that, in the long term, if it is to stay up it has to have a roof on it. 

St Lukes
“Unfortunately, when you put a roof on a building that hasn't had a roof on it for a long time, it is going to spread the building. So just on a practical level, putting a roof on St Luke's is one of the most dangerous things you can do. 

“What they would indeed have to do is make a frame with columns inside and beams across to support the glass. It is an extremely delicate job and from what I have seen, I doubt there is an architect in Liverpool who could perform such a delicate job while retaining the building's integrity and its solemnity."

He accused Mayor Joe Anderson of treating the city's heritage like a 'scouse Pound Land'

“I am not even sure if Mr Anderson knows St Luke's is on the English Heritage At Risk register.

“I noticed he originally said somewhere that he would sell it off for £1. Well they sold St Andrew's church off for £1 and look what happened there.

"Since when did the Mayor become a property developer? You can't just give away the city's treasures to the first person who comes along with a few bob and says hand it over or it will fall down. 

“It is not scouse Pound Land."

Mr Colquhoun said that the building was  Grade II* listed "so even to alter one brick inside or out needs a planning application. People are now debating changing it into a boutique hotel, but the final say goes to English Heritage. And if English Heritage say it must remain as a memorial to the Blitz, it's unlikely it will happen.” 

The current custodians of the building, arts collective Urban Strawberry Lunch, last week told Liverpool Confidential that they had first call on coming up with a scheme for the building after hearing on the news that building was up for sale. They want to create a Community Interest Company to keep it as a community space and have received backing of, among others, Yoko Ono and Holly Johnson. 

St Luke's was designed by John Foster Senior and built by his son, John Foster Junior, who designed St Andrew's in Rodney Street too.

Meanwhile, Cllr Kemp has written to the city council calling for a new trust to be established to act as custodians of the bombed out church. 

“We have a trust set up at St George’s Hall and this could work on similar grounds, able to raise money and introduce commercial users that respect and are in keeping with the ethos of the church and all that it stands for. 

“I hope the Mayor of Liverpool quickly rejects the hotel proposal out of hand so we can have a sensible discussion about its future. Within days 25,000 people signed a petition wanting the church to be preserved more or less as it is, with sympathetic use.”

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40 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Fran KearneyMarch 27th 2014.

Some people are not happy unless they are scoring political points, how much clearer can Joe Anderson be!! He has no intention of demeaning this building, stop scaremongering Mr Kemp, Mr Colquhoun do you want people to think your just courting publicity, your not are you??

AnonymousMarch 27th 2014.

Seems like having an antique stall and an opinion are all that's needed to pass judgement on historic buildings these days and become an architectural expert. And as for the views of the screeching daughter of Nippon and a washed-up celebrity has-been.....do me a favour!

AnonymousMarch 27th 2014.

To be honest, Wayne comes across as quite reasonable and balanced. He has no political axe to grind and knows a hell of a lot more about it than the shouty people on social network. If it needs interior support from a structure to stop it falling down, there he is agreeing with it. Who'da thought, so stop your personal attacks and come up with a workable proposal instead, eh?

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousMarch 27th 2014.

Quite right Anon. On this issue Mr Colquhoun is being perfectly sensible. He is not claiming to be an expert but is making considered comments about what may be required. The people above who rush to attack seem to have short memories about how other buildings have been destroyed by some developers, who never intended to protect the heritage or be sympathetic to the building. Remember the promise about the old dole office across the road? How the ornate front structure would be preserved? Obliterated and still a boarded up waste ground. Nothing of any substance has come out of the Mayor's office. No facts or figures, no details of a structural survey or estimate of the cost of work to make it safe, just a sudden announcement that it's falling down and something has to be done. Then denials and statements about being committed to the building and it's status as a memorial Then behold! Somebody has already drawn up plans for a boutique hotel which I suspect were not done on the back of a fag packet in the last 3 days. As for the comments about "Screeching daughter of Nippon" and "washed up celebrity has-been" This is exactly the type of language we have come to expect from the Mayor's friends and supporters that is helping to endear him to the people of Liverpool. Keep it up.

David SwiftMarch 27th 2014.

Well done Liverpool Confidential in reporting such an important issue. I don't understand how Joe Anderson can be so out of touch with public opinion. Also, well done to those active enough in actually trying to protect our heritage. Do we really want to sell off a memorial to some developer for a pound (as happened with St.Andrew's in Rodney Street) ? The answer is NO ! It seems that money can be "found" elsewhere in the city for other projects e.g. £10 million for Cunard Buildings

2 Responses: Reply To This...
John BradleyMarch 27th 2014.

EDITORIAL. Comments on this sub-thread have been removed. This is not a place for personal attacks on other readers and we will not tolerate them. Nor is anyone entertained by tit for tat sniping. If you haven't got anything of value to say, then please do your best not to say anything at all.

Phillip LawlerMarch 28th 2014.

This is to be sold off but with conditions. Joe Anderson has made this clear. His comments are all over the Echo if you want to check them out. He is not going to sell it so it can be bulldozed for ugly flats. He will consider all reasoned proposals. The Cunard building has been bought and is being put to work to make money for the Liverpool coffers. It is being turned into a bagage handling terminal for the cruise liner facility so the profit it will earn will outweigh the outlay. That is the plan. It is not just a pointless frivolity.

AnonymousMarch 27th 2014.

As long as they don't touch smokey mo's place, we need classy places where people can croon to their friends.

1 Response: Reply To This...
John BradleyMarch 27th 2014.

I was planning to donate that to the RAF as a practice bombing site. Without telling the inhabitants.

AnonymousMarch 27th 2014.

Its already full of RAF people, rough as fuck!

1 Response: Reply To This...
John BradleyMarch 31st 2014.

Well I started a petition for it demolition. Makes a change from petitions to save buildings. councillors.liverpool.gov.uk/mgEPetitionDisplay.aspx…

AnonymousMarch 28th 2014.

Bravo Wayne

IsabelMarch 28th 2014.

There is more to life than spending. Our small and beautiful city centre needs all open spaces and original venues to offer special experiences to visitors and residents alike. A great opportunity for a project involving local students, young volunteers to learn stoneworking, world wide competition for innovative ways to stabilise structure. £10 from 20,000 people would start fund and pay council something. A private development not only does nothing to improve cultural life, it would destroy the atmosphere in this vital space. There are many music, art studios, printers, architects, independent fashion and design businesses in this area. St Lukes is a place where students from City community college and Universities can mingle, as well as a great venue. St Lukes as it is made safe is perfect for the future, we can't afford to lose any more character from the city.

1 Response: Reply To This...
David SwiftMarch 28th 2014.

Well said Isabel. The plight of St.Luke's can easily be resolved as you suggest. Far better to involve community groups than to have an unwelcome deal being done behind closed doors. St.Luke's is a memorial to the people of Liverpool. Democracy anyone?

John BradleyMarch 28th 2014.

How would people react if this was the site? commons.wikimedia.org/…/Category:Welsh_presbyterian_church,_Princes_Road…

Phillip LawlerMarch 28th 2014.

The proposal is a decent one that preserves the building and makes more use of the space. Currently it hosts the occasional arts event but a glass roof over it would ensure it can be used in any season. Restricting it to weddings doesn't sound too clever as it will have the ability to host much more. Perhaps they can adjust their plans and proposal. At the moment the gardens aren't really a place of tranquility but rather a haven for drinkers and little else. The church was bombed during the blitz and it has been blindly accepted as a memorial since. It isn't a memorial, it is a building that wasn't fully knocked down after the blitz like the Customs house and many warehouses. The cities war memorial is at St Georges Hall if you are looking for one. Wayne Colquhoun is asked for opinion in Liverpool websites and papers merely to give a contrasting point of view in articles about architecture and conservation. Some of the coments he makes here may chime at a glance as someone who cares about the city. He does in his own way but I have been to his website which can be found with a quick google of 'Liverpool preservation trust' - It doesn't strike me an organisation with weight but rather a blog of one man's opinions. To me they are misguided rants. Feel free to judge yourself.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Tricky WooMarch 28th 2014.

Here we go with the personal sniping again at the end of a well reasoned opinion. We are each entitled to our view and Mr Colquoun's comments on this occasion are right on the money. Like them or loathe them, the city would be much poorer without people like Wayne C. Do we want a city where nobody is held to account? This debate is not about Wayne, so back off.

Phillip LawlerMarch 28th 2014.

The sniping is well deserved Tricky. He is not the moral arbiter of society you would like him to think and he uses unhelpful rhetoric to bolster his arguments such as the 'pound land' quip. The sale of something for a pound has nothing to do with how much the church is worth, it is just a minimal business transaction fee to swap hands of a property or development. Wayne offers no realistic proposal to make use of the building. Just a dewy-eyed romantic view hoping that the money will come out of thin air from the pockets of divine justice. It won't.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousMarch 28th 2014.

Exactly. Tricky seems to be confusing fact and opinion.

AnonymousMarch 28th 2014.

God you're like another bradley.

SaladDazeMarch 28th 2014.

Couldn't Mayor Joe gift it to its true historic guardians? Peel Westminster Holdings Inc. could perform a public service by installing another branch of Starbucks and mopping up all those unemployed baristas and barristers.

Bill MajorMarch 29th 2014.

The developers of Liverpool One shopping area ought to be asked to divert a fraction of their massive profits. Yet another area of public wealth is under threat in the interests of private greed. It is not true that the grounds are havens for drunks, on dry sunny days they are well used by lunchtime workers & students. Tourists also. Music of all sportsman be heard on most days. If you want proof of the dangers of this proposal, walk up to Rodney Street to view St Andrews church.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousMarch 29th 2014.

Which is precisely what Mr C said, re St Andrews. Not sure if it is wise to allow one man, in this case Lawrence Kenwright, a free rein on our city's buildings with yet another set of drawings on a fag packet and promises to stop it falling down. Remember Bill Davies anyone? Charterhouse?

AnonymousMarch 29th 2014.

Great idea, let's punish those bastards for inflicting all those jobs, regeneration and investment on us. Let's all get behind Bill and send those fat cats a message they can't ignore..... We don't want you and all your success! FFS!

Phillip LawlerMarch 29th 2014.

Bill, you are talking a shocking amount of nonsense and you obviously have no idea how business works. Liverpool One have no legal or moral obligation to help this church. What I would say is that success breeds success. The more re-development and positive building projects that happen then the more likely other things will develop. Have a look at Skyscrapercity the web page to see the Liverpool developments to keep your finger on the pulse.

10 Responses: Reply To This...
John BradleyMarch 29th 2014.

Better still Demolish Mount Pleasant Car, and make that space available for redevelopment. Anything but semi detached houses. Things off the scale of the opposite side of Mount Pleasant or bigger. Would Harvey Nicks like a site? More science park?

Ford PrefectMarch 31st 2014.

Oh great Bradders, where exactly do you intend to relocate the 1,300 affordable public and contract car parking spaces currently offered by Mount Pleasant? It is one of the few things the Council still owns that makes them money.

John BradleyMarch 31st 2014.

I don't, though some car parking could be built into any new development. It seems mostly empty I'm sure the space could be better used.

AnonymousMarch 31st 2014.

Whilst not an attractive feature, it offers all day parking for £4 and is always busy, you speak as a non-car owner I presume?

John BradleyMarch 31st 2014.

Not at the moment, but even when I was I never parked there. It should be for sale for the right price for the right project.

Ford PrefectApril 1st 2014.

It's very busy in the week. After 8.30am you have to drive all the way up to the tenth floor to find a space. You have a very dog-in-the-manger attitude. Because you happen not to use it the thousands that do must suffer and go without! All so we can have yet another 'boutique hotel'. Well I don't use boutique hotels, therefore they ought all to be closed down and demolished.

John BradleyApril 1st 2014.

I don't want to see another hotel, but if the chance to knock one down and build something more productive in its place I'd take it. Which is why I said right price right project.of I happen to think that a car park is not a very productive use of land, and that car park takes up a chunk of a prime site. Just North of London road are a collection of single level car parks in a far less auspicious position.

Ford PrefectApril 23rd 2014.

Yes. ugly, cramped, badly-designed and expensive privately-owned car parks that opportunistically fleece families visiting their sick and dying relatives in the Royal Hospital.

John BradleyApril 23rd 2014.

Have you just got out of RLUH then?

Ford PrefectApril 23rd 2014.

Don't be daft - I wouldn't have driven there now would I? The parking charges would pay for a Harley Street specialist.

ChrisMarch 29th 2014.

It is well recognised philosophy of conservation that one of the main ways to ensure a buildings future is by active use. One of the problems that this city has always had is that it is quick to fight progress….and yes, I do view turning a (basically) disused bombsite into a modern unique facility which will enable much more people to enjoy the building as progress. All the suggestions about community groups and local involvement are all well and good but, I am afraid they just don’t pay the bills. In this period of austerity and a serious lack of cash flow in the city, the fact there is still interest in private developments in the city by a local reputable company, who have a proven track record of providing first-class developments whilst creating jobs for locals, should be applauded not condemned!

4 Responses: Reply To This...
David SwiftMarch 31st 2014.

Anywhere else in the city and I would agree with an above board deal being done with a developer - preferably out to tender. However, St. Luke's church and surrounding gardens aren't just a bombsite. The church as it stands is effectively a memorial to the blitz. The gardens are a little oasis. Let's see where this goes in terms of voluntary and community groups, you may be pleasantly surprised. At the very least Joe Anderson should be exploring this option - he may find he is pushing at an open door.

AnonymousMarch 31st 2014.

Think you'll find that talk is cheap and little comes forward!

John BradleyMarch 31st 2014.

Given the response to any suggestion I'm surprised that even the few that do come forward.

ChrisApril 1st 2014.

Having previously lived around the area in question for many years, I can assure you that the gardens, although used by a wide range of people, would not be described by the general public as an ‘oasis’. The area has a long standing problem with anti-social behaviour that has even made the national press, as across the road is where the council had their trial ‘Wet Garden’ to try and disperse the culprits out of sight. I have been a supporter of the many film nights that have been shown in the church over the years, only to find that the majority get rained off or the ones that I have seen have had a high attendance of the same people who frequent the wet garden! In its current state it is clearly not viable due to cost but, as others have mentioned, it might all be pie in the sky! We should all still be open to suggestions and this in my opinion sounds like a good one.

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