Go-karting track at former Debenhams site in Liverpool ONE given green light

The multi-storey building will remain a retail space on the lower two floors, with the upper levels being converted into a leisure facility.

Plans for the old Debenhams building on Lord Street to be converted into a leisure facility that could include a go-karting track have been given the green light.

Liverpool Council’s planning committee gave the go-ahead for proposals at the now vacant store at Liverpool ONE to be repurposed, despite concerns it would turn the city into “an amusement arcade.”

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The building will remain a retail space on the lower two floors, with the upper levels, to be accessed via Chavasse Park, being converted into a leisure facility.

As part of the scheme, an indoor electric go-kart circuit could be installed at the former department store, which has been vacant since Debenhams ceased trading in May last year.

Debenhams at Liverpool ONE. Image: Google

The plans

No external alterations are proposed to the building’s frontage on the corner of Lord Street and South John Street.

Access to the retail portion of the development will remain through those main doors, while the possible go-kart and leisure facilities would be available via Chavasse Park.

What’s been said

Cllr Billy Lake expressed concerns, questioning whether the plans were being rushed through as the site had been vacant less than 12 months.

He said the site represented “the opening of our prime retail venue” and referring to the addition of the go-kart track, Cllr Lake asked if the amendments would turn “the city centre into an amusement arcade?”

He added: “First of all we had a zip wire planned to degenerate our most iconic and historic buildings, then we had our remembrance service disrespected by a whirlygig which was placed on St George’s Plateau, now we’ve got go-karts to undermine our prime retail space.”

Lauren Neary, of planning consultants Avison Young, said “extensive marketing” had been undertaken by Grosvenor, who had been unable to find a retailer willing to take the whole unit.

Committee chair Cllr Tony Concepcion said there was no desire for the site to remain empty and “in many ways, we’re in a different world post pandemic and the way people shop is changing, and we need to address that.”

Welcoming the application, Cllr Concepcion said it would be a “positive change for the city” and would introduce a leisure element to the retail area.

The application was approved by a majority vote.