Peel’s skyscrapers now in doubt as Liverpool offers olive branch to UNESCO

Council had previously adopted a bullish tone to UNESCO’s threat to take away city’s World Heritage Status – but now the city looks set to agree to demands to restrain high-rise development. Tony McDonough reports

Liverpool Waters
Liverpool’s new conciliatory stance towards UNESCO throws the original Liverpool Waters Plans into doubt

 

Peel Land & Property’s skyscraper cluster at its £5bn Liverpool Waters scheme has been thrown into doubt after Liverpool City Council unveiled a new strategy to protect its world heritage status.

The property giant unveiled its vision for the Central Docks site north of the Pier Head over a decade ago and the 30-year plan outlined a vision which included a number of high-rise developments.

However, the plan brought the city into conflict with UNESCO, under which Liverpool’s waterfront and a large area of the city centre is designated a World Heritage Site (WHS). It has put Liverpool on the “in danger” list which mean it could lose WHS status.

UNESCO was unhappy at the plans put forward by Peel at Liverpool Waters, claiming the height of the proposed developments would be a blight on the aesthetics of the waterfront.

Bullish tone

Until recently, Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson and a number of business leaders had adopted a bullish tone saying development was key to Liverpool’s economic prosperity and that they would not be dictated to by UNESCO.

However, the cite council is has now drafted a Desired State of Conservation Report (DSOCR) which describes the corrective measures it is proposing to protect the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the site which the city hopes will persuade UNESCO to remove it from the “in danger” list.

The DSOCR will go to the council’s Cabinet next Friday (23 February) for endorsement following its recent submission to Government, and once approved will be submitted to the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport for subsequent examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 42nd session in July.

The report focuses on the main issue of how the city needs to balance its projected population and economic growth over the next 15 years, which will see the creation of 35,000 new homes and 30,000 jobs, whilst protecting its WHS. 

The most significant section of the report relates to the Liverpool Waters scheme which its says is now under review. It adds that a “neighbourhood masterplan” will take in heritage concerns and planning guidelines on heights of buildings.

However, work  is either already under way, or is about to start, on a trio of residential towers within Liverpool Waters at Princes Dock, just north of the Pier Head – one of the towers will be 34 storeys high.

Skyline policy

Among the other measures included in the report is a proposal to develop a “skyline policy” for tall buildings in and around the WHS zone.

Another measure addresses the likely planning application by Everton FC to progress a new football stadium at Bramley Moore Dock.

Computer-generated image of three residential towers planned for Princes Dock in Liverpool

 

The council has stated the application will be dealt with in accordance with national and local planning policy and would need to demonstrate how it benefits the regeneration of the WHS.

Mayor Anderson said: “Liverpool’s World Heritage Status is of great importance to the city, not only in showcasing our unique maritime heritage but in how we can use it to shape our future boosting both our tourism economy and our civic pride.

This report shows in great detail the lengths Liverpool has already gone and will continue to go, to balance the needs of a growing city whilst protecting our World Heritage Status.

This is a delicate task and involves all the major city stakeholders working together to understand very specific planning issues and creating solutions that works for the city and UNESCO.

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