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Issue Date:- 20 October 2008


PLANS to revive and extend The Watson Building, a Grade II listed building adjacent to Liverpool’s famous Lewis’s Building, into a 4 star-plus hotel, have received consent from the Planning Committee.

The Watson building and the neighbouring former Rapid Hardware paint shop, were acquired by Central Regeneration Limited Partnership, a joint venture comprising Merepark and Irish developer Ballymore, in late 2007.  The 70,000sq ft Watson building will be extended onto the site of the former Rapid Hardware paint shop to form a 170,000sq ft, 180 bedroom, four star-plus hotel designed by international architects Woods Bagot An international hotel operator has already been secured and the scheme’s approval will secure a further £50m investment for the city centre.  The development will see the rejuvenation of the mainly unoccupied Watson building, making full use of the seven floors and adding an eighth and ninth. The basement will provide underground parking, accessible from Cropper Street.

This planning application follows Merepark and Capital and Counties’ £105m proposal to transform the Lewis’s building into a "full and vibrant mixed use leisure destination". This received council approval in August 2008 and will see the building frontage cleaned and many of the original features retained.

Ian Jones, director of Merepark, said:- “The Watson Building is a key element within the Central Village project, which will form one of the largest regeneration schemes in Liverpool.  This announcement comes only 2 months after the council granted planning permission for the redevelopment of the Lewis’s building.  We are delighted these two key components of the scheme have now been backed by the planning committee and are now looking forward to work commencing on site early in the new year.”

Stephen Reinke from Woods Bagot, the architect behind both Central Village and proposals for the Watson building commented:- “These plans are all about the business of place making. Designing a quality hotel is integral to regeneration, as tourism and the presence of tourists would allow the Central Village location to develop as a truly mixed use scheme for Liverpool.

Merepark and Woods Bagot are committed to regenerating this important part of the city - the urban fabric of this site where Ropewalks and Mount Pleasant meet at the historic Newington Crossing date back as far as the late 1700s. The architectural composition within this planning proposal plays on the classical ordering of the adjacent building with an exuberant 21st Century companion.”


SEPARATING BROTHERS and sisters in care can have a long-term impact on their health and wellbeing, leading charity the Fostering Network will warn.  At its annual conference on 17 October to 18 October 2008, the Fostering Network called for a change in the way siblings are treated and argued that fostering services must work harder to keep brothers and sisters together.

The Children Act 1989 requires local authorities in England and Wales to place a child with their siblings "if reasonably practicable and consistent with their welfare". Similar legislation exists in Scotland and Northern Ireland. However, up to half of children in care are separated from their siblings, and many of them say it has affected their mental health and sense of identity, says the charity.  Children become separated for a number of reasons, including because of a chronic shortage of foster carers. Other factors include children being of different heritage from each other or coming into care at different times. The Fostering Network wants local authorities to put more emphasis on recruiting foster carers who can take sibling groups; to offer better training for foster carers; and to make more effort to place brothers and sisters together.

Freda Lewis, director of the Fostering Network Wales, said:- ‘When children are separated from their brothers and sisters it can bring about feelings of abandonment and rejection which can lead to mental health problems. They can’t explain their family history properly as there are always gaps. They also often lack knowledge of the family’s medical history, which can have a big impact on their own health.  Sometimes siblings will be separated because it is in their best interests. But fostering services need to pay closer attention to trying to place siblings together where it is appropriate. If they cannot be placed together, foster carers must be supported to do all they can to help their fostered children stay in touch with siblings.’

Delma Hughes, who runs the Siblings United project at Shaftesbury Young People, a charity working with children and young people in care and in need, will be speaking at the conference. She was separated from her 6 brothers and sisters when they went into care. Delma Hughes, said:- ‘Your relationship with your siblings is the most special relationship you can have. It is a practice ground for all other relationships – you can have a row with a brother or sister and be friends again soon after. Children become much more stable when they know where and who their family is. Nothing can replace siblings - there needs to be much more research into the impact of separation.’

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