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Synagogue conversion to go ahead despite opposition

A mixed new-build and restoration project on the site of Liverpool’s Greenbank Synagogue looks set to go ahead after winning council support.

The scheme will see the existing Grade II*-listed building converted to apartments, as well as the construction of two new-build apartment blocks.

City planning officers have recommended the project for approval when the city’s planning committee meets next Thursday.

The synagogue, which was built in 1936 on Greenbank Drive near Sefton Park, closed for worship in 2008 and was placed on the Buildings at Risk register by Historic England.

Designed by NC Architecture, the project was originally submitted in April 2016 as a conversion combined with the construction of a five-storey apartment block, but the scheme was revised earlier this year to include two smaller blocks containing a total of 30 apartments.

However, both plans have proved to be highly controversial at the consultation stage and have been met with fierce opposition from both local residents and councillors.

The first consultation received 70 objections alongside a petition from 221 signatories objecting to the scheme, with only one letter in support, while the second consultation received 75 objections.

Respondents objected to the new-build element of the project while supporting bringing the synagogue building back into use, with a number of objections arguing that the project represented an overdevelopment of the site.

The new-build element has been proposed as an enabling development to cross-fund the restoration of the synagogue, which the developer, listed on planning documents as Green Drive Liverpool Limited, has argued would not be financially viable without the new-build element.

However, two local councillors argued that the project’s new-build aspect was excessive and would “raise profit beyond that required to bring the listed building back into use”.

Four councillors also argued the new-build element would be “out of scale” with other buildings in the local area and would impact the heritage status of the synagogue.

Heritage group the Twentieth Century Society also slammed the proposals, arguing that the building was “the finest surviving synagogue in Europe dating from the inter-war period” and said that changes to the building’s interior were “fundamentally unacceptable”.

Despite the objections, planning officers said the restoration of the synagogue and the construction of new homes in the area would “outweigh the harm caused by the development”.

Historic England also said the new-build element would cause “less than substantial harm” to the conservation area and did not object to the application.

Financial appraisal documents suggest the total value of the scheme to be in excess of £8m.

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