A new masterplan is set to explore how Liverpool’s business district can be expanded. A report to Liverpool City Council’s Cabinet next Friday (25 May) is recommending a Spatial Regeneration Framework (SRF) be drafted that would seek to develop the district and potentially connect it to the development of Princes Dock in the £5.5bn Liverpool Waters scheme. The district, which covers 40 acres at the northern fringe of the city centre, predominantly consists of professional offices but a rise in residential use through Permitted Development Rights is impacting on the potential to grow the city economy particularly with regard to supplying Grade A and B office space. The city council, together with public and private sector partners at Liverpool City Region and Professional Liverpool, are to jointly commission the drafting of the SRF with will give the council’s planning authority the ability to determine future development use to meet demand and enable Liverpool to compete with the other core cities. Home to many blue chip and well-known companies Liverpool’s business district saw office take-up up rise by 16% in 2016, at 396,436 sq ft – the highest take-up since 2009 – but vacant office stock continues to fall and now stands at 958,083 sq ft with only 330,438 sq ft ready to occupy. Grade B/B* office space represents the mainstay of the district and in 2016 these offices accounted for 97% of transactions and 97% of total take-up with no vacant Grade A office space remaining. To address this issue the city council is seeking to support a £200m plan to develop a scheme in Pall Mall, with Kier Property, that will provide 400,000 sq ft of new Grade A office space which could could deliver up to 2,500 new jobs. The council is also investing £100m in new road infrastructure at the northern fringe of the district and has recently submitted a planning application to create a new cruise terminal at Princes Dock, which lies less than 400 yards from the district’s current boundary. Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said: “Liverpool’s business district is a major engine in the city’s economy and its future growth needs to be proactively managed to maximise its potential and further underpin the development of Liverpool Waters. “The supply of Grade A office space is critical to any successful city centre which is why we are supporting the Pall Mall development but to stimulate demand and provide more supply, which will in turn create much needed jobs in the professional sector, we need a long term vision which this Spatial Regeneration Framework will underpin. “The fact is the city centre has boomed in the past decade in its appeal for shoppers, tourists and those wanting to live in a great city centre and the competing needs of a growing population and visitor economy now needs to be addressed to ensure the district remains a dynamic and vital cog in our commercial economy for the next 20 years.” Steve Stuart, Chair of the Professional & Business Services Board for Liverpool City Region, said: “There is a shared concern between public and private sector about the commercial office market in Liverpool in terms of low rentals and availability of high quality Grade A and Grade B space. Working with partners we recommend a framework that enables the proactive development of the commercial district that can meet current and future demands. This will enable us to respond to national and international inward investment enquiries and attract occupiers and new jobs. Working together we can support a vibrant and successful commercial district that can help deliver the high value, high skill jobs that will support the City and wider City Region growth objectives.” John Hall, CEO at Professional Liverpool, said: “The expansion of Liverpool’s business district can only be seen as a good thing for the city. There is a serious lack of Grade A office space coming to the market, which is hampering opportunities for businesses to grow. The SPF would address this issue, allowing more space for businesses to develop and remain in the business district as they expand.” Bill Addy, chief executive, Liverpool BID Company, commented: “Speaking on behalf of our levy payers, Liverpool BID Company is fully committed to future-proofing the continued growth and success of the Commercial District BID. As the preferred destination for the professional sector and a location of choice for the creative and digital industries, it is vital that the district capitalises on this by connecting with the Liverpool Waters development to remain competitive and relevant within the wider city region and Northern Powerhouse arena. Our focus is to support and drive investment in the area, and that’s why we welcome the proposal of the Spatial Regeneration Framework. “Our latest annual office market review highlighted not only the strength of the business district, but also underlined the challenges we face in Liverpool. Take-up is extremely encouraging but the worrying trend in the reduction of office stock is a major concern for the sustainability of the district. The proposed development of Grade A space at Pall Mall will be a welcome and much needed addition.” Following cabinet approval it is envisaged that a brief is put to the market in the summer with consultation to follow in the autumn, before a final SRF is submitted in early 2019. The draft document would then be considered for formal adoption as a Spatial Planning Document so that it would constitute a material consideration for planning purposes. The city council has recently followed a similar process to masterplan for the Ten Streets Creativity District, Knowledge Quarter Gateway and Baltic Triangle.