Liverpool’s first five-star hotel will still go ahead despite delays – according to the man behind the ambitious scheme.

Plans to convert the historic city centre Martins Bank into a 138-bedroom hotel were given approval last June by Liverpool council.

Bernard Byrne, the man behind the project, told the ECHO at the time he planned work to start on the project last autumn with a view to opening the venue in autumn this year.

It’s now a year on from planning permission being granted though and construction work has still not begun.

Mr Byrne, managing director at Castlewood, assured the ECHO this week he still planned to open a hotel in the Grade II-listed former bank on Water Street.

He said: “It’s been a bit slower than we expected. We expect to be on site by the end of the year. We are getting there.”

Asked if the hotel would still be five star, Mr Byrne said: “Absolutely, that’s very much the plan.”

The £40m hotel will include two restaurants, three bars, a spa, and conference and banqueting rooms.

The development will see the building’s stunning banking hall, which features marble floors and 20 giant columns, converted into used for a hotel reception, bars and restaurants.

Many of the bank’s original features will be retained, with the main dining area enclosed within the horseshoe-shaped tellers’ counter and the original writing desks kept.

Castlewood previously put forward plans for a hotel in the building in 2011 but the development never came to fruition.

Liverpool doesn’t currently have a five star hotel.

The new city centre Doubletree by Hilton hotel, due to open this summer, was originally set to be a five-star hotel but is now going to be a four-star venue.

The Martins Bank site contains four floors of office space which will remain, with the hotel sandwiched between.

The apartment belonging to the former chairman of the bank will be subdivided to form two bedroom suites.

The building, designed by Herbert Rowse, opened as the headquarters of Martins Bank in 1932 after a five-year construction contact

During the Second World War some of the Bank of England’s gold reserves from London were stored in the Liverpool bank’s vaults as a potentially safer refuge from bombs.

In 1969 Martins Bank was bought by Barclays, who used the building until 1989 when it was sold to the Carroll Group, from which it was acquired in 1996 by the present owners, Castlewood.

Barclays closed the branch about six years ago and the banking hall has remained empty since.

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