PLANNING officers in Liverpool have given their backing to a 22-storey block of flats - housing 1,000 students - on the old Ribble bus station site opposite Lime Street Station.
And they are urging the go-ahead be granted immediately, dismissing calls from the UN's World Heritage Site bosses to hang fire on the scheme until it has been given approval by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.
The Unite Students tower, at an estimated 240 ft, would be one of the top ten tallest buildings in the city.
This would unreasonably stifle the essential regeneration of the city centre
Save Britain’s Heritage, the charity which fought and lost the battle to save the Futurist cinema in nearby Lime Street, says the scheme - which was singled out for special mention by UNESCO in July - could lead the city being stripped of its World Heritage status.
The Victorian Society has also lodged a strong objection.
The site, in Skelhorne Street, has been used as a surface car park since the demolition of buildings some years ago.
But despite the objections, Government cultural watchdog Historic England says it's checked the plans over and it raises no concerns.
Unite Students wants to build a tower, rising to 22 storeys, with retail and commercial units at ground level, studio accommodation for 74 student apartments and 138 cluster units in the tower.
SAVE says such a high development will cause harm to a significant number of heritage "assets", both national and international in their value.
UNESCO has already placed Liverpool on its at risk register because of planned schemes within the WHS.
“It does not adequately protect the setting of the WHS or respect its visual and historic context,” claims SAVE, adding the building, standing at an estimated 240ft, will intrude negatively on key WHS views to and from the WHS and will be visible from the William Brown Street Conservation Area.
“Approving this scheme would further increase the likelihood that Liverpool’s WHS would be deleted by UNESCO, who have specifically raised concerns about this scheme at their meeting in July 2016 and asked that the application not be approved until a report has been submitted by the Department of Culture Media and Sport,” added SAVE.
It said a revised scheme, lower in height, giving greater consideration to its location, would be much more likely to be acceptable.
And the Victorian Society echoed the criticisms, saying it strongly objects to the scheme due to the unjustified and highly detrimental impact it would have on the setting of highly listed buildings, and the William Brown Street Conservation Area, as well as the integrity of the WHS Buffer Zone in which the site is located.
“The scheme falls well short of the need to develop a scheme of exceptional quality that responds sensitively and astutely to its historic context,” the society added.
A report to Liverpool city council’s planning committee which meets next Tuesday recommends the go ahead. Planning officers say the potential impact of the scheme has been rigorously assessed to ensure it complies with guidance on World Heritage Sites.
“As accepted by Historic England, it is considered that the scheme would not have a harmful impact on the setting of the identified listed buildings,” a report to the committee states.
“It is noted that the World Heritage Committee at its meeting in July 2016 specifically referred to this scheme and requested that it does not gain approval until a Desired State of Conservation Report has been submitted by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.
"The Interim Head of Planning does not consider it appropriate to delay decisions on applications for major development in the WHS once they have been fully assessed and are ready to be determined as this would unreasonably stifle the essential regeneration of the city centre,” adds the report.
“The Interim Head of Planning is satisfied it would not harm the setting of any of the identified high grade buildings nor cause harm to the OUV of the WHS."
The planning committee on Tuesday is also being asked to approve a scheme for the building of accommodation for 566 students on a site at the junction of Norton Street and Islington on what was the site of the National Express Coach station. Two buildings, one 16 storeys high the other 10 storeys are proposed.