'Horror show damages the cityscape', says social commentator

It stood out as a handsome monument to fine Victorian architecture, the headquarters of the Liverpool Post & Echo in its heyday. To others it was the city’s answer to New York’s Flatiron Building.

But a two storey rooftop extension to the one-time council owed Millennium House has been condemned by a leading city commentator who describes it as a lumpen, thuggish carbuncle.

Liam Fogarty’s scathing attack on the development, on top of what is now Signature Living’s Shankly Hotel, comes just weeks after Liverpool Confidential lamented the state of much of the city’s modern architecture.

Read: When did Liverpool give up on great architecture?

The journalist and former BBC broadcaster, one of the original candidates for the first elected mayor of Liverpool (he was runner up) gave his own take on the latest arrival to the city’s landscape.

“This rooftop extension inflicts damage on a precious part of the Liverpool cityscape," he said.

Developers who embrace smart, sensitive design should always be welcome in Liverpool. Those who won't shouldn't be allowed to put one brick on top of another

"There's not much point in a competition to find our Carbuncle of The Year because, ladies and gentlemen, we already have a winner.

“Looking down from the Radio City Tower you can see how hopelessly out of scale this development is.  But the real horror show becomes apparent at ground level, looking up from the foot of William Brown Street towards Whitechapel and Victoria Street.

“An elegant corner-piece, with echoes of New York's Flatiron Building and the old Mappin & Webb offices in London, now has a lumpen, thuggish two-storey addition plonked on top of it.

"It's giving the elegant Victorian creations, in the adjacent St George’s Quarter, the metaphorical middle finger."

20170719 Millennium House Shankly Hotel
How it looked before
20170719 Shankly Hotel Roof
How it looks now

In 2015, Signature won permission for an extension, but a report to councillors in February this year said the scheme, which by then was two thirds complete,  did "not correspond with the form and design” of the one approved.

The council had received enforcement complaints about the construction, which covers two storeys, not one, and a “more undulating roofline” than first drawn up.

Fogarty said Signature Living's builders had gone beyond the terms of their original planning permission, but the council's response was a shrug of the shoulders.

In its report at the time, the council's interim head of planning said he did "not consider the rooftop extension to be the most elegant piece of architecture”, but the regeneration benefits to the building outweighed any harm and the retrospective permission was granted.

20170719 Liam Fogarty
Liam Fogarty

But Fogarty said: “Liverpool pioneered urban conservation and its planning department used to have highly-regarded heritage experts. But most of these officers have gone and not been replaced. And boy does it show, time and time again.

“Up to now I've been an agnostic about Liverpool retaining World Heritage Status. I can see the appeal of a badge from UNESCO while accepting that Liverpool cannot become a museum piece. 

“But can we be trusted to protect our urban heritage by ourselves? Cavalier developments like the Shankly Hotel extension - and the council's supine response - don't bode well.  

“Developers who embrace smart, sensitive design should always be welcome in Liverpool. Those who won't shouldn't be allowed to put one brick on top of another.”