English Heritage has lodged a number of objections to a skyscraper plan for Liverpool‘s waterfront a month after Unesco inspectors warned thedevelopment threatened the city’s world heritage status.
Peel Holdings, the owners of the Trafford Centre in Manchester and the Manchester Ship Canal, wants to develop a swath of disused dockland containing a multitude of historic buildings as part of its multibillion-pound Liverpool Waters scheme. It features thousands of flats and hundreds of offices, hotels and bars, as well as the 55-storey Shanghai Tower and other skyscrapers.
The scheme envisages two clusters of tall buildings, one near the city centre and a second further north.
But English Heritage has written to Liverpool city council expressing its concerns that a secondary cluster of tall buildings at Clarence Dock will introduce a large and strong vertical form that will “overwhelm the historic, horizontal character of the docklands generally”.
The density of development, the mass and scale of the waterfront blocks and the height and scale of the tall buildings “will divorce, rather than connect, the two main parts of the Stanley Dock character area of the world heritage site”, English Heritage argues. It believes the development will prevent an appreciation of the relationship between the docks and river that is essential to an understanding of the site.
Furthermore, it says the development will detract from the historical primacy of the Pier Head buildings and will harm the setting of the Stanley Dock warehouses by largely obscuring them.
It adds: “The scale of the development will compromise and unbalance the historic urban landscape of Liverpool as a whole.” The heritage organisation also points out that there is a lack of clarity in what the Shanghai Tower development will involve, as there are contradictions within Peel Holdings’ plans.
Henry Owen-John, planning director, north-west, for English Heritage said: “One of the things that we’re anxious to make clear is that while we have serious problems with the effect on the world heritage status these proposals will have, we’re also aware of the significant benefits delivered, particularly a programme that would drive jobs and growth …
“We’re not actually specifically asking for the application to be called in [to the secretary of state]; we’re asking he look at it and consider the issues on all the planning issues.”
English Heritage believes it is possible to find a compromise that does not mean the city will lose its world heritage status.
The world heritage status inscription describes Liverpool as the “supreme example of a commercial port at the time of Britain’s greatest global influence”. English Heritage says the dockland landscape bears testimony to this international significance.
Owen-John said it was disappointing that after four years of detailed discussion, “we still have a scheme that harms heritage”.
When the Unesco inspectors visited the city in November, their report concluded that the waterfront would be “irreversibly damaged” unless urgent modifications were made to the Liverpool Waters scheme.
The delegation warned the skyscraper proposal would result in a “serious loss of historic authenticity”. The inspectors praised the more or less symmetrical profile of the city’s waterfront with the Three Graces – the Port of Liverpool and the Liver and Cunard buildings – at centre stage and historical docklands to the north complementing those to the south.
The Graces were “at the heart of the shipping and harbour operations during the height of [Liverpool’s] glory, surrounded by dockyards and port structure”, it said.
The £5.5bn Peel Holdings scheme has been a source of controversy and English Heritage has been in talks with the developer for four years attempting to find a compromise.
But Unesco did not spell out what would happen to the city’s world heritage status if no changes were made to the project. It had been feared the report would recommend removing the status if the scheme was given planning permission, but it did not go that far.
Peel Holdings has previously agreed to scale down the height of the Shanghai Tower to address heritage concerns.
Liverpool city council’s planning committee will consider the proposal on 6 March.
Joe Anderson, the leader of Liverpool city council, has previously indicated that he welcomed the Unesco report’s findings and was pressing for a compromise that would enable Liverpool Waters to go ahead.
He regards the plans as vital for the future of what is one of the poorest areas of the country.
Meanwhile new images have been released showing just how naff the scheme is.
THESE images show the dramatic way Liverpool’s skyline could change over the next 30 years.
Peel Holdings, which wants to transform the city’s northern docklands in a £5.5bn development, released the pictures ahead of a public exhibition to showcase the plans.
Liverpool council’s planning committee will vote on the huge scheme a week on Tuesday, March 6.
The two-day public exhibition opens tomorrow and will show new hi-tech graphics and video imagery of the project.
Peel hopes the exhibition will galvanise public opinion in favour of the scheme which promises to create 20,000 jobs over 30 years.
The project features 9,000 apartments, hundreds of offices, hotels, bars and a cruise terminal, as well as the 55-storey Shanghai Tower.
But opponents believe the scheme is too big and does not pay enough respect to the heritage of the docklands, which partly sit in the city’s World Heritage Site (WHS).
Unesco, which oversees World Heritage Sites, said the Three Graces would be forced to play “second violin” to this scheme if it went ahead without changes.
And English Heritage, the government’s conservation advisors, have now formally objected to the project.
But the body said it was for others to decide whether the “significant” loss of heritage was outweighed by the economic benefits.
Henry Owen-John, regional head of English Heritage, said: “We are not in a position to judge what the balance is between heritage, which we know about, and economic development, which we know less about.”
Peel development director Lindsey Ashworth today said: “There are overwhelming reasons why it should be given a favourable wind.
“We are not disturbing any archeology, there are about 200 buildings in the scheme and every building has moved since the original application.
“I have made massive compromises to the scheme and English Heritage have not made one.
“I don’t think it will lose the World Heritage Site status, I am convinced that it will not.
“When the (Unesco inspectors) came their minds had been made up, they had been substantially influenced by the English Heritage side of things.”
He insisted it was not in Peel’s interests to build poorly designed buildings, because they would struggle to attract tenants.
“If it goes to a public inquiry we will walk away, because that is the government saying it is not capable of making a decision. The government should either pass or fail it, but sending it to a public inquiry is the wrong thing to do.”
He said if a public inquiry is called the company would be happy to carry on with the sister project Wirral Waters on the other side of the Mersey, which already has planning permission.
Does this idiot have any idea about procedure, the SoS cannot make a decision without an inquiry, just old fashioned bullying.