A controversial plan to redevelop a large area of Liverpool's waterfront has received an effective green light after the Communities Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, chose not to call in the scheme for a public inquiry. The £5.5 billion scheme is designed by Chapman Taylor and provides 9,000 homes, 300,000 square meters of office space and 50,000 square meters of hotel and other facilities. The scheme also includes the 55-story 'Shanghai Tower' and a cruise ferry terminal.
The plan has attracted criticism, in particular from English Heritage and UNESCO who worry that the size of the developments will negatively affect the Liverpool skyline, dominated for almost a century by the 'Three Graces' a trio of listed buildings that have come to define the view from the Mersey River. UNESCO has strongly opposed the development, placing Liverpool's world heritage site on it's 'endangered' list and threatening that if the scheme goes ahead, the area could lose its world heritage status.
Read more about the reaction to the scheme after the break...
The official letter from the Department for Communities and Local Government stated:
"The Secretary of State's general approach is not to interfere with the jurisdiction of local planning authorities unless it is necessary to do so. The government remains committed to giving more power to councils and communities to make their own decisions on planning issues, and believe that planning decisions should remain at the local level wherever possible."
Those in favor of the scheme cite the jobs it will create and the economic growth it will hopefully bring. Development Director of The Peel Group Lindsey Ashworth stated:
"English Heritage together with the World Heritage Body UNESCO put up massive obstacles to prevent this development proposal getting permission. Their studies and arguments have all collapsed and rightly so as it's simply not right to expect derelict parts of cities with such a rich history to stand still and be fossilised."
Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson called the scheme "a huge boost for our city and yet more evidence that despite the recession, regeneration is forging ahead here." However, he has also been sympathetic to those with concerns over the heritage of the area, saying “it’s vital that Peel delivers these plans in a way which meets the conditions set out by the planning committee and we’ll be working closely with them to make sure this is achieved.”
Local media has also been supportive of the scheme: a blog post by the Liverpool Echo expressed a need to be "bold and adventurous", when it comes to the development of the docklands, saying that fast-developing cities use their waterfronts to great effect, and the alternative is to "wrap them in cotton wool to admire only on public holidays."
Developer Peel Holdings had previously said that if the scheme were called in for a public inquiry it would back out of the project, citing the cost and uncertainty that the inquiry would involve. English Heritage has expressed disappointment at this approach, implying that by threatening to withdraw from the project Peel put pressure on the government to accept the current scheme, rather than allowing an opportunity to develop a more sympathetic plan.
This is not the first time in recent years that development on Liverpool's waterfront has been criticized: buildings in the area have been perennial contenders for the Carbuncle Cup an annual award by BD for the worst new building in the UK. Since 2009, the Liverpool Ferry Terminal by Hamilton Architects, One Park West by Pelli Clarke Pelli, the Museum of Liverpool by 3XN, and Mann Island by Broadway Malyan have all been shortlisted for the prize, with the Liverpool Ferry Terminal 'winning' the prize in 2009. All four projects are in the immediate vicinity of the Three Graces.