Aura is a £100 million hotel and student accommodation scheme in the city’s Islington area, while Infinity is a £250 million development formed of three residential towers overlooking the city’s waterfront and business district.
The schemes are being developed by Elliot Group, which in December saw its founder and director, Elliot Lawless, arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud, bribery and corruption.
Police have since seized £200,000 from a flat belonging to Lawless but are yet to bring any charges. Lawless denies any wrongdoing.
Following the arrest, Maslow Capital, which had previously agreed to lend money to Elliot Group for the construction, pulled out of funding arrangements – while contractor Vermont downed tools on the sites.
Lawless subsequently wrote to buy-to-let investors who had purchased off-plan flats, telling them he would need payments amounting to tens of thousands of pounds up to a year earlier than previously agreed.
If 75 per cent of investors for each scheme do not agree to stump up, the development vehicles behind the projects will enter administration as Lawless is effectively unable to borrow money while he is accused of fraud.
The collective decisions of investors are expected to be announced in the next two weeks. If they agree to provide the funds, construction work could resume within the following month.
Meanwhile, work has also stopped on a third Elliot Group project designed by Falconer Chester Hall – a 34-storey tower in Salford called The Residence – while financial backers wait to see the outcome of the police investigation.
Falconer Chester Hall director Adam Hall, said he was ‘very confident’ that both the Aura and Infinity schemes would be ‘up and running very soon’.
Hall had originally told the AJ he thought the pause would last about a week, but now said: ‘Honestly, we haven’t noticed [the pause in construction work].
‘We won two jobs before Christmas’s which have more than eaten up any capacity we had.’
Hall added that even if investors did not agree to inject more cash into the schemes, he believed Lawless would find a way to hold on to them.
The AJ1000 practice is currently working on 10 projects with Elliot Group that are between the pre-application and building on-site stages.
Hall described Lawless as an ‘ambassador for Liverpool’, adding: ‘He was really on a roll and it seems as though [there are] political, internal issues – potentially the way in which the council want to run their organisations – [which] he has been dragged into.’
Lawless was arrested at the same time as the council’s director for regeneration, Nick Kavanagh, was arrested on suspicion to defraud and corruption in public office. Kavanagh has not been charged.
Hall added that his practice had not considered what impact Lawless being charged would have on their business.
‘He is a very small portion of all our work,’ he said. ‘He is one client among – I don’t know – 50 clients of that nature.’