Stephen Vernon's Green Property is one of the last surviving Irish property companies of any significance and it's currently raising hackles in Liverpool.
Green Property, which the amiable Mr Vernon chairs having handed over day-to-day responsibilities to managing director Pat Gunne in 2008, has sent the city's council into a spin over one of the group's assets – the high-profile and protected India Buildings.
The imposing pre-war building is one of Liverpool's most famous. But Green Property has been accused by Liverpool Civic Society of desecrating the building.
Green Property has apparently been sent a caution by Liverpool's planning conservation officer after eight bronze plaques were removed from India Buildings' entrances.
A council spokesman told the 'Liverpool Post' that the removal was a "criminal offence". Heavy stuff indeed.
Green Property – which in Ireland owns the Blanchardstown shopping centre – has been reviewing what to do with the building, part of which is currently used as a shopping arcade but is down at heel. Tenants have been told by Green Property that the public will soon be denied entrance to the shopping arcade via one of the main entrances.
"To close it to the public is a national outrage and an insult to the people of Liverpool.
"It's survived the depression and the blitz but not Green Property," said antiques dealer Wayne Colquhoun who runs a store there.
Green Property director Mike Tapp said the company had decided to turn it into an office building but was undecided about retaining the retail component.
He said the company had been in detailed discussions with planning and conservation officers in Liverpool city council for more than five months and had secured listed building consent to facilitate its investment.
“It’s a complex structure, built in another age when working practices were different from the open-plan culture we have today," he said. "Any changes we may make to ensure the building remains fit for purpose as a premier office address need to take into account its wonderful fabric."