Land in Toxteth turned into an apartment block which was recently hit by claims over an “illegal eviction attempt” was sold to the developer by Liverpool Council for £18,000.
The land, next to the former Charles Wootton centre on Upper Parliament Street, was sold to one of developer Elliot Lawless’ companies Parliment (sic) Place Ltd in 2016.
Documents obtained from Liverpool Council showing the company was sold the land by Liverpool Council for £18,000 plus £2,000 in legal fees under a delegated decision overseen by then head of regeneration Nick Kavanagh.
The sale of the land was mentioned in a scheme of delegation report authored by Mr Kavanagh in 2016. A single line states: “Freehold 244-246 Upper Parliament Street.”
Elliot Lawless, who owns the former Charles Wootton centre next door which had previously been converted into flats, was in the process of building a 116-room block called Parliament Place at the site when the sale took place.
According to a delegated decision report obtained by the Local Democracy Reporting Service following a Freedom of Information request, Mr Lawless had already obtained a lease for the site with an agreement from Liverpool Council amounting to “one peppercorn a year”.
Liverpool Council said that leasehold was not acquired from Liverpool Council and contained a pre-existing agreement with the council. It is understood Mr Lawless acquired the lease, alongside freehold titles for the former Charles Wootton centre when the company that owned them went into liquidation and the sites were put up for sale.
The council’s delegated decision report, which had previously been exempted from publication, stated the purchase price for the freehold of the land of £18k and was “considered the best price reasonably obtained”.
Parliment Place Ltd went into administration in 2020 amid claims by creditors – mostly leaseholders who bought apartments at the block off-plan – of being owed hundreds of thousands of pounds in unpaid rent.
According to reports filed with Companies House, administrators had initially thought the company still owned the land at Parliament Place, but it later emerged that Mr Lawless said he had transferred the land to another of his companies, 1DOM ltd just one week before the company went into administration.
The circumstances by which the land transfer took place have been at the centre of some dispute. The transfer had not been registered with Land Registry at the time Mr Lawless claimed it had taken place, and administrators questioned whether it had taken place at all and if so whether this had been done legally.
While administrators, Mr Lawless and his solicitors Hill Dickinson were in the midst of a protracted back and forth over the release of information relating to the transfer, an Isle of Man based company – then called Collateral Investments Ltd – put a legal charge over the land.
In December 2021, that land was transferred to that company, which is now known as Schloss Roxburghe Holdings Ltd. Land Registry records state that the price paid was £400,000.
Parliment Place Ltd is currently in the process of being liquidated, with creditors claiming they have been left hundreds of thousands of pounds out of pocket.
According to reports filed with Companies House, administrators claimed the transfer between Parliment Place Ltd and 1DOM Ltd was undervalued, a “preference payment”, a “transaction to defraud creditors” and “not lawfully” carried out.
The reports stated that this was contested by Mr Lawless, who claimed the transaction had been carried out legally.
Administrators sought advice from Kings Counsel – who deal with the most complex of legal cases – about the transfer to Collateral Investments/ Schloss Roxburghe and were advised it was “uncertain” a claim would succeed unless it could be shown the company knew about administration proceedings when it placed the charge, according to the reports.
Schloss Roxburghe Holdings Ltd is owned by Schloss Roxburghe Foundation. When the LDRS contacted representatives for Schloss Roxburghe and Prime Management Ltd for comment, spokesperson Dougal Paver from Merion Strategy, representing both companies, said Schloss Roxburghe was owned by Prime Management Ltd., which is also based in the Isle of Man. Prime Management Ltd is in turn owned by the Regent Foundation. The ultimate ownership of that company is not publicly available and the LDRS has been unable to ascertain its ownership.
Mr Paver said that while he had the opportunity to “review evidence” – a stock transfer form – that showed Elliot Lawless was not linked to any of the companies, he was “not privy” to information about who was, later adding he had “not been authorised to say who the shareholders or beneficiaries of any of the Foundations or related businesses are”
Mr Lawless was asked whether he was connected to any of the companies and said: “In short, I am not a director, shareholder, or beneficiary of the subject companies.”
Liverpool Council was contacted about the land deal and said it was unable to comment due to ongoing investigations.
Elliot Lawless was contacted for comment about the administrator’s claims but did not respond. Schloss Roxburghe and Prime Management did not respond to a request for comment about the land deals.