Fears for future of Elliot Lawless’s trendy Liverpool hotel development

High profile developer Elliot Lawless has suspended building work at a hotel development after investors refused to spend more on the scheme pending the outcome of a police investigation.

Last week, a large tower crane was removed from the site of the EPIC Hotel development on Norfolk Street in the city’s Baltic Quarter.

So far, investors have put in around £10m in the waterfront scheme, which is being developed by the Elliot Group.

Mr Lawless, 33, who runs the Elliot Group, was arrested at the same time as Liverpool council officer Nick Kavanagh last December.

He was questioned on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud, bribery and corruption.

Mr Kavanagh, who has been suspended from his role as Liverpool Council’s director of housing and regeneration, was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud and misconduct in a public office.

Neither man has been charged in connection with the investigation and Mr Lawless denies wrongdoing.

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Mr Kavanagh has not spoken publicly since his arrest.

A legal review earlier this year found that warrants executed by police at properties linked to Mr Lawless were ‘unlawful.’

Mr Lawless has now told the ECHO that building work at the EPIC site has been suspended as investors declined to continue to put more capital into the scheme until police concluded their investigation.

Mr Lawless, who grew up in Liverpool, said: “Unfortunately the effect of the unlawful warrants against me in 2019 are still causing my business issues.

“I continue to help Merseyside Police with their enquiries and although no charges have been brought against me, my investors on this project are reluctant to invest any additional capital until the investigation is concluded.

Liverpool property developer Elliot Lawless, who runs Elliot Group. Courtesy of VJT Photography

“I respect their decision in the circumstances. The investors and I all have agreed to suspend work temporarily whilst we find an acceptable funding solution to complete the project.

“Constructive negotiations are progressing and I am confident that we’ll reach a conclusion in the coming weeks where investors’ and my company’s interests are protected.”

Anna Doef of Mewstone Ridges Ltd, whose company is one of the largest investors in Elliot Group’s Norfolk Street scheme, said: “Following Mr Lawless’s arrest the investors felt they could no longer support him in delivering the development.

“We are working with him in partnership, as we have done successfully on the Aura scheme, to ensure the scheme is delivered and I have been very impressed to date with his efforts to protect our interests and find a solution.”

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Information on the Elliot Group’s website describes the EPIC as a ‘stunning’ 16-storey development which will offer residents views as far as Snowdonia.

It reads: “This stunning waterfront building, designed by FCH Architects for Elliot Group, will occupy one of the most prominent sites on Liverpool’s southern waterfront and provide enviable views all the way to Snowdonia.

“The scheme will complete the regeneration of the western end of Norfolk Street in Liverpool’s rapidly emerging Baltic district and provide a bold statement of intent for the area’s wider regeneration – and Elliot Group’s role within that.

“16 storeys high, the building includes a unique hub for start-ups and technology entrepreneurs, with tenants offered free support and master-classes from some of the country’s leading advisors and entrepreneurs.

“The apartments above will be for sale to owner-occupiers.”

Last year, the Elliot Group said it chose the Baltic Triangle for the hotel development due to its status as the hub of the city’s growing technology scene and a “focal point” for leisure, employment and residential development.

Last month, Mr Lawless was subject to a court hearing in relation to money seized by police when they executed warrants last December in relation to a corruption investigation.

The tower crane which was taken down at the EPIC hotel site in Liverpool

Liverpool Magistrates’ Court granted police a further 90 days to hold onto the £345,000 seized from Mr Lawless.

The developer has since said he is confident that the cash will be returned to him. He said the money was from cash businesses and bank deposits.

The force was also told it could retain possession of around £3,750 seized from Nick Kavanagh.

Earlier this year, a judicial review found that a police search of a property linked to Mr Lawless was ‘unlawful.’

Mr Justice Robin Knowles, summarising the case, said that the police investigation into Mr Lawless was looking into his purchase of properties from Liverpool council on 40-50 Percy Street/53-57 Upper Parliament Street and 68 Falkner Street.

Mr Justice Robin Knowles said the investigation was focused on the purchases on what were “alleged to be an improperly preferential basis.”

Merseyside Police later agreed to the quashing of the warrants executed at Mr Lawless’s city centre home, but said it was continuing with the investigation.

Liverpool Echo – Liverpool News