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Developer or Community: what’s the future of presbytery land?

A parcel of land sitting off Vauxhall Road and Eldon Street, owned by Liverpool's Archdiocese, has sparked a major debate, following news of the demolition of the disused Our Lady's of Reconciliation Presbytery on the site and the subsequent selling of the grounds.

Local resident Brian Jones, an active member of the parish, was informed by Kirkdale Cllr Joe Hanson, in a series of messages via What’s App, that: “The Archdiocese is going to knock it down and then sell the land” adding that “we could end up with a block of apartments.”

 

After discussions with other community members and local parish priest Father Richard, an idea emerged to try to raise sufficient capital through local community members to purchase the land directly from the Archdiocese.

 

Brian says, in a message to Cllr Hanson: “If the land is sold to the community, it would become something that benefits the community” and would ensure that residents can “have a say” in the future of the area.

 

In recent years, the Archdiocese proposed to build a road on the land – which runs behind the church – to lessen traffic congestion and accommodate funerals. Father Richard and members of his parish still believe that should happen today.

 

But a more recent suggestion from residents is to create a communal area – including an affordable social housing project, run by local people.

 

“Archbishop Derick Warlock saw this in the community. We are now asking for the help of Archbishop Malcolm McMahon to support the future of this community."

 

Brian explains that calls for a community-led project follow a prolonged period of inactivity on the land bordering the church, which is owned partly by the City Council and by developers the Eldonian Group. The latter also owns Grade II listed building, Eldon Grove, where renovation of the dilapidated landmark has stalled before any significant construction started and left investors waiting for their luxury apartments.

 

Over the years, the disused land has attracted drug use and criminality – leading to multiple break-ins at the church and complaints from residents.

 

In a letter to Veronica Clarke, the solicitor of The Archdiocese of Liverpool, Brian says: ”This situation is a deep concern to me personally, and within the local community, as to future problems occurring with this site. Myself and other members of the community who are in the position and willing to fund a local non-profit organisation to buy the land from the Archdiocese – and willing to guarantee any profits taken from this land will directly be given back to the parish where it is desperately needed.

 

 

“The fundamentals of this church is that it was established by Irish, Italian and Lithuanian immigrants 170 years ago, and as such it is far more than just a church. It is a local community centre and a catalyst for the original Eldonians.

 

“Archbishop Derick Warlock saw this in the community. We are now asking for the help of Archbishop Malcolm McMahon to support the future of this community.”

 

Scottie Press spoke with Cllr Hanson about the future of the site. He told us: “I’ve been approached by members of the community who have asked can some of the land be provided to bring a road in to use to allow the church to have funerals. The priest is saying he will not have any funerals because of the road and all that, but that’s absolute nonsense.

 

‘But that’s the parish priest, and he’s entitled to his view.

 

“I wrote to the Archdiocese saying I’ve been approached by the local community and we need a road going in or some type of turn around for funerals.

 

“I’ve been approached by a developer in the city, who I know and the city knows. And he’s got an agreement with the people who own Eldon Grove and the old school site, that if he is able to purchase the land that the City Council owns, he will also purchase that [Archdiocese] land” for what Cllr Hanson says will be a “social housing” project.

 

 

He says he has informed the Archdiocese of the expressed interest in the double purchase of the land, adding: ”it makes sense to me to consider selling him [the developer] the land. Or, failing that, give the community part of that land to allow for funerals.”

 

Cllr Hanson says the Archdiocese hasn’t come back to him, but the developer will be reaching out directly with their proposal.

 

Kirkdale Cllr Hanson says that, instead of it going up for ‘open sale’, he will sort a deal for the developer to agree on a price to purchase the entire plot, and that the interested party would adhere to the wishes of the community to build a new road for funerals.

 

“What I’m saying to the council is that, three years ago, the market price of that land was £150,000. Now, I would assume that, given what’s going on in Kirkdale, the price of the piece of land has gone up – though I don’t know that. But that’s what I’m pushing for.”

 

Cllr Hanson says he feels “confident” the mystery developer would deliver – despite Scottie Press revealing several stalled or failed multi-million-pound development projects surrounding the land belonging to the Archdiocese.

 

Cllr Hanson feels the vetting process for developers in the planning committee has become more stringent and accountable, to try to prevent future problematic decision making by the department.

 

Scottie Press has reached out to The Archdiocese of Liverpool for comment.

A shot of the recent landscaping of the grounds outside of the church to make a new sitting area for local residents