Liverpool seeks public view on skyscrapers

A number of skyscrapers have appeared on the Liverpool skyline but they are a contentious issue – now the city council wants to hear your views. Tony McDonough reports

Princes Dock
Princes Dock, Liverpool Waters which is home to several tall buildings. Picture by Tony McDonough

 

How Liverpool city centre’s skyline will evolve over the next few years is the focus of a new public consultation.

Liverpool City Council has produced a draft guidance of a new tall buildings policy for the city. This new Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) is now going out to public consultation.

As part of the process, the authority is now asking people and businesses for their views. These will be adopted to inform future planning applications for buildings above 15 metres in height.

Six locations in and around the city centre have been identified where clusters of taller buildings may be appropriate. They are: Liverpool Waters, the commercial district, Leeds Street / Pall Mall, Central Station, Paddington Village and the southern fringe of Baltic Triangle.

The draft SPD has mapped current developments. It sets out guidelines for appropriate heights for new planning applications in these clusters. The policy also provides guidance based on nine core principles covering issues such as quality, sustainability, environment and economic growth.

In recent years the height and design of new buildings has become a thorny issue in the city. It is particularly contentious when it comes to waterfront development. Peel L&P’s original masterplan for its multi-billion pound Liverpool Waters featured a number of spectacular skyscrapers.

It was first unveiled more than a decade ago. However, in 2012 the masterplan brought the city into conflict with UNESCO, which in 2004 bestowed the World Heritage Status on the waterfront and the city centre.

UNESCO was unhappy with plans for Liverpool Waters and Peel eventually agreed to modify the height of the proposed developments. However, the row dragged on and it was the go-ahead for Everton’s £500m stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock that proved to be the final straw.

In July 2021 UNESCO stripped the city of its WHS. Although this caused dismay among heritage groups it was welcomed by many in the business. They felt the WHS badge was holding back developments vital to the growth of the city centre.

 

Liverpool Waters
One of the earlier images of plans for Liverpool Waters

 

Skyscrapers have their supporters and detractors. Those in favour say they offer a modern aesthetic to city skylines and building upwards can reduce urban sprawl. However, opponents say they can overwhelm nearby smaller buildings and ruin the character of an area. It is also claimed they lead to isolation and discourage interaction.

In 2021, Princes Dock in Liverpool Waters saw the completion of Moda Living’s £82m, 34-storey skyscraper, the Lexington. Next door, the £21m 16-storey Plaza 1821 also welcomed its first residents. Next to that a 31-storey residential tower is planned.

This new draft policy provides design guidance that complements the National Design Guide and Model Design Code. It also has a focus on the environmental impact on surroundings. This aims to protect the historic character of neighbourhoods and other buildings nearby.

Samantha Campbell, Liverpool City Council’s chief planning officer, said: “The draft supplementary planning document sets out a framework. It has a clear objective to guide the development of tall buildings in a positive and proactive manner.

“Tall buildings can play an essential part of Liverpool’s growth and regeneration. Indeed, Liverpool has a great tradition of building tall, notably with the Liver Building on the Waterfront and skyscraper construction used at Oriel Chambers, Water Street.”

People can go online to read the draft Tall Buildings SPD on the council’s website or go to Central Library or the Cunard Building to see a printed copy. The public can give feedback until Friday, September 16.

The council will also be hosting virtual and in-person consultation events. There will be two virtual events on Wednesday, August 17, and an in-person event at Cunard Building from 1.30pm to 3.30pm.

People can email liverpoollocalplan@liverpool.gov.uk or write to Liverpool City Council, Planning and Building Control Service, Cunard Building, Water Street, Liverpool, L3 1AH

The draft policy also includes the recommendation that schemes need to pass four tests by demonstrating:

  • A clear purpose and role for the tall building to directly support regeneration.
  • The proposed height is appropriate to the role or function of the locality.
  • It positively contributes to an area and its scale is appropriate to its surroundings.
  • The impacts on sensitivities have been fully considered.

Cllr Sarah Doyle, Cabinet Member for Economy and Development, said: “Liverpool’s skyline is world famous and its development needs to be sensitively handled. We need to ensure its historic character and charm are maintained, whilst allowing for economic growth and job creation.

“This a very timely document as we are all thinking about the future and function of cities in a post-Covid world and how developments can provide growth for the future, without impacting on climate change and net-zero ambitions.”

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