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Empty VAT office to become city's biggest 'council house'

Des-res on dockside for social housing tenants sparked by lack of commercial demand

Written by . Published on April 24th 2013.

Empty VAT office to become city's biggest 'council house'

ONE of Liverpool’s best known office complexes – the Customs and Excise Building at Queens Dock – is to be transformed into the city’s biggest “council house”. 

 Following the exit of hundreds of VAT collectors and civil servants, the now vacant, five-storey building which cantilevers over the water space, is destined to be converted into a gated estate - managed by a registered social landlord.

The proposals, which go before the council’s planning committee on Tuesday, will – if approved – will see the huge building switched from a purpose built office complex into 240 flats - 86 one-bedroomed , 124 two-bed and 20 three bedroom flats.


There will also be a resident’s community centre, picnic area and children’s play area within the fenced estate which enjoys some of the best river views along Liverpool’s historic waterfront.

The Queens Dock building was constructed in the early 1990s by the Merseyside Development Corporation to facilitate relocation of the Government’s Custom and Excise’s VAT offices. It brought 1,800 Civil Service jobs from London. The tax office closed last year when the lease expired, with staff switched to Regian House in James Street and the Triad Building in Bootle.

The applicant for the new scheme is Glenbrook QD Limited, a property management company working with Mapeley, the company awarded the contract to dispose of hundreds of government buildings. This has resulted in a sizeable office.

The application states the housing scheme will be managed by a registered social landlord. Although it is not yet known which one that might be, there are several in the city including Plus Dane and Liverpool Mutual Homes. They now own and manage Liverpool's entire stock of council properties.

It could also address the widespread shortage of one and two-bedroom social properties in the city.

While there is pressure to attract government jobs to places like Liverpool, it raises the question of why a purpose built complex of almost 200,000 sq ft of office space is being sacrificed.


Planning officers in a report to Tuesday’s meeting explain the reason. They say the building is 1.2 km from the city’s main office area, being left entirely inactive on an extremely prominent part of Liverpool’s waterfront.

HMCE_Queens_DockNew revenue: A residents' community centre, picnic area and the laughter of children where once rang out only tax demands

“This disconnection from the city’s commercial quarter, the availability of other vacant office premises in more central locations and the lack of demand for such a quantum of office accommodation in the current economic climate, has severely limited its prospect of being re-used, in its entirety, for offices,” they say.

The area is zoned for mixed use and the proposed residential scheme will breathe new life into a vast empty building.


“This mix of high-quality accommodation that meets lifetime homes standards in a prestigious waterfront location is a highly attractive proposal that will assist in providing a balanced residential community in the city centre.

“The lease commitment by the third party operator demonstrates a long-term sustainable commitment to the building re-use. The proposal offers a  viable and efficient re-use of an urban brownfield site, which is complimentary (sic)  to neighbouring land uses, including the residential areas of Mariners Wharf, to the south, and the mixed-use leisure-led redevelopment of Kings Dock to the north.

"Indeed, the increased residential population in this area will also have knock-on spending benefits for local businesses and the city economy,” adds the report.

Reclaimed from the river

South Docks
The site was reclaimed from the River Mersey during the construction of Liverpool’s extensive South Docks system, which commenced in 1788.

This site originally comprised a shipbuilding yard, but remodelling and enlargement of the docks to accommodate larger ships, resulted in the construction of Queens Graving Dock east-west across its centre.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the Merseyside Development Corporation (MDC) began a programme of work that involved the infilling of redundant dock basins, including King’s Dock (Nos. 1 & 2) and Queen’s Branch Dock No.2 immediately to the north.

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

AnonymousApril 24th 2013.

So what are all the highly paid quangoites doing in their task to attract office jobs to this city? If this building was in manchester it would be filled with office staff.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousApril 26th 2013.

Nothing it seems...

Stella ShweeApril 24th 2013.

hang on, if there is no demand for office space, how come we're building Liverpool Waters?????

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousApril 24th 2013.

Just because Liverpool Waters has got permission, doesn't mean it will ever be built. Rumour is when H2S roars into Manchester, Liverpool's train service will be taken over by Hornby Trains.

Paul WardApril 24th 2013.

Good news for Tesco Metro.

Uncivil ServantApril 24th 2013.

Actually a lot of the jobs in that building were moved from Bootle and they all whinged about it!

AnonymousApril 26th 2013.

So now you can get the city living waterfront lifestyle for sitting on your backside !

I can only see the area going into decline ..... but that is par for the course in this city .

Is the fence to keep them all in ?

1 Response: Reply To This...
Burbo BanksApril 26th 2013.

Your point being what, exactly?

AnonymousApril 26th 2013.

People pay a lot of money to live next to the water and for that view. Now it seems you can have it for free.

No need to go out and work hard for it anymore.

This city and the people who make our decisions are crazy... #backhanders

3 Responses: Reply To This...
Burbo BanksApril 29th 2013.

"Free"? You have to pay a market rent for social housing since Thatcher did away with tenants' rights in 19


Have you been reading the Daily Mail or something?

Burbo BanksMay 5th 2013.

19<br /><br /> - it used to say.<br /><br />And what's #?

Burbo BanksMay 5th 2013.

OK in nineteen-eighty-eight. Can't we use numerals here any more?

John ShawApril 26th 2013.

Re-name them,"Anderson Shelters".

AnonymousApril 26th 2013.

I would to love to know how close to social housing the planning officer who presented the report quoting "balanced residential community" lives! I somehow think not very close indeed!!

AnonymousApril 26th 2013.

"knock-on spending benefits for local businesses and the city economy". Are these people serious, the only spending benefits are going to be coming from the people who already live around here and paid good money for the privilege, who will have to upgrade their security!

AnonymousApril 27th 2013.

So. there we have it. All people who live in Social Housing are layabout scroungers and criminals. How very enlightened. I must tell my friends who have flats with Cosmopolitan, Riverside and Dane plus. No doubt they will all get the sack from their teaching, nursing and council jobs when this comes out. It will be news too to those who have in the last few years been made redundant and had to approach Housing Associations for help because the bastard banks re-possesed their 3 bed semi in Allerton. And and a welcome kick up the arse to a woman and her two teenage kids I worked with, that lost her £300k home of 12 years when her husband ran out on her leaving a mountain of hidden debts. The lazy swines. How dare they try and put these criminals by the fine people who live on the waterfront. Keep the bastards in the slums.

4 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousApril 27th 2013.

As my dear mamma would say, "Some people have their nose too near their arse"

Albert DockApril 29th 2013.

I think it's a great idea to have some proper social housing down by the waterfront, with families and maybe even a school. I can't imagine the tie-less, sexy networking oiks who own dockside flats will like it, but as most of them come from Huyton anyway...

Alan TaylorMay 1st 2013.

no objection to social housing down here provided they all behave themselves and the area does not deteriorate or crime increase - can't see that being the case though

AnonymousMay 1st 2013.


AnonymousApril 27th 2013.

"Fur coat and no Knickers".would be another apt descrition.

AnonymousApril 27th 2013.

Must go for a "p"

ToniApril 29th 2013.

As a resident in this area I would like to know "who" the council/landlord spoke to about this and I quote from the Liverpool Daily Post "While more than 400 nearby residents were consulted as part of the bid, only one has objected over fears of traffic clogging up the narrow road to the building at Mariners Wharf"...Well I and many other residents within the vicinity the building have never been approached! And we do not agree to this being converted into social housing. I agree more social housing is required, as my mother is one of the people who they social may consider to be re-homed here as she is a pensioner who will be hit by the bedroom tax (which is why they are converting the building) who will struggle to live and make this payment but to force people out of their family homes into smaller flats is not right. Local residents need to pull together on this and find out exactly what is going on as we have been kept completely out of the loop!

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousApril 29th 2013.

Pensioners aren't affected by the bedroom tax

Mickeydrippin'April 29th 2013.

"And we do not agree to this being converted into social housing...." Where do you think more social housing should be located? If you have any ideas, you should let Joe Anderson know.

AnonymousApril 29th 2013.

At the moment no they are not, but the government are bringing in a "universal tax" at the end of the year, which will include pensioners in the Bedroom tax.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousApril 30th 2013.

Its NOT a tax

AnonymousApril 29th 2013.

I'm as perplexed as"Toni",I don't recall ever being asked whether we wanted homes for the wealthy next to Sefton Park.It would appear that these people proposing these Schemes,please themselves.Sod what the public think.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
John BradleyApril 29th 2013.

Perhaps you should set up a NIMBY club?

AnonymousApril 29th 2013.

Your right squire,hows about your backyard

John BradleyApril 29th 2013.

As 1 building site just finished and another is currently under way not much space yet.

AnonymousApril 29th 2013.

Get your name down for Dingle Vale allotments,bags of space there,if not there are a further 1199 you can choose from.

John ShawApril 29th 2013.

It's academic whether the housing is social or otherwise.What is annoying is the lack of consultation,and the high handed manner in which it is done."localism" is a myth,the council have an irritating habit of confusing the words "cart"and "horse".They have little or no regard for what the publics take is on any given subject,they plough on regardless.

Tide MarkApril 29th 2013.

Er - if you read the article properly this plan is that of a Private Company, not the Council.

Social housing might improve the waterfront as it seems (on the evidence of the responses on this page) to be peopled by thick, ignorant riff-raff.

AnonymousApril 30th 2013.

The article states"council House",it also says that it is to go before the "council planning committee" this Thursday,it is they who approve or disapprove,dependant on what they think,not what the public think.Social housing may well imrove the area,the riff raff on this page have the same rights as your good self,not that any of us will be taken any notice of.

AnonymousApril 30th 2013.

Tuesday...........today me thinks......Arden House......David Lewis Hotel........Reincarnation........Se la vie.

Reflector7May 4th 2013.

Guys check out the Localism Act 2012 along the way, and whatever happend to &#34;duty of care&#34; for all sections of our civil society?? Might I suggest attendance of the Housing Select Committee meetings- opened to the public at Mill' House, Victoria Street to registered your views/concerns alike........as steakholders within your amazing city of Liverpool.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousMay 5th 2013.

What's your beef then?

Aberdeen AngusMay 5th 2013.

What's your language?

Judith Cummings shared this on Facebook on May 4th 2013.
AnonymousMay 5th 2013.

stake or hoarse,haven't quite made my mind up yet,still waiting for Matron to bring my clean jim jams

Judith Cummings shared this on Facebook on May 11th 2013.
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