LIVERPOOL'S world famous Pier Head would end up playing second fiddle to Peel’s proposed £5.5bn Shanghai skyline project, city leaders have been warned.
A Unesco World Heritage mission team pulled no punches, saying it will NOT support Liverpool Waters in its current form. It is now challenging the city council, Peel Holdings and English Heritage to get around the table and work out an alternative Liverpool Waters scheme.
The invitation is conciliatory in essence, but it is hard to see how a skyscraper development north of the Pier Head could in any way satisfy Unesco and the way it feels the WHS should be protected.
The current Liverpool Waters proposal from Peel
Although there is always room for manoeuvre, Peel has insisted it wants Liverpool Waters to proceed with its dramatic skyline.
At stake is north Liverpool’s need to regenerate - to boost the local economy and create thousands of new jobs, and at the same time protecting its maritime legacies.
The mission’s report says the historic north docklands (site of Liverpool Waters) complement those to the south, putting the Three Graces centre-stage in, more or less, a symmetrical profile.
“This has a historical reason as the Three Graces were at the heart of shipping and harbour operations during the height of its glory. Shifting this profile to the north by introducing a secondary cluster of high-rises, with towers three times the height of the Three Graces, would destroy this profile, relegating the Three Graces to playing second violin, and thereby losing an important visual and historical reference to the city’s glorious past,” say the team.
The main conclusion and recommendation from the Unesco mission team states: “We conclude if the proposed Liverpool Waters scheme, as outlined, would be implemented, the World Heritage property would be irreversibly damaged, due to a serious deterioration of its architectural and town-planning coherence, a serious loss of historical authenticity, and an important loss of cultural significance.”
The team headed to Liverpool after Peel’s scheme was raised at a Unesco meeting last year in Paris, alerted by cultural campaigner Wayne Colquhoun of the Liverpool Preservation Trust.
At that meeting, the World Heritage Committee urged the UK Government to ensure that proposals (as they then stood) were not approved. The committee warned failure to reject the plans could lead to consideration of loss of the Outstanding Universal Value of the property. Essentially, if that happened, World Heritage Status for Liverpool would be at risk and the city could lose the coveted title.
“While the mission is fully supportive of the regeneration efforts undertaken by the Liverpool City Council, putting heritage at the heart of the spatial development process, it will not support the Liverpool Waters scheme in its current outline, as it will be developed at the expense of the city’s heritage and its Outstanding Universal Value.”
Peel's proposals are expected to be presented to the council in March.
Although it is continually stated that the very act of granting planning permission will mean the city losing its World Heritage title, this is not necessarily so.
In the past, on the rare occasions when a WHS has been stripped, it is when the deed has actually been done. In other words when work starts on a building or structure that threatens the integrity of the WHS.
What could happen is the Liverpool WHS could be placed on an ‘at risk’ register.
Joe AndersonJoe Anderson, leader of Liverpool City Council said: “I welcome the findings of the World Heritage report and it’s really encouraging they are pressing for a compromise which would enable Liverpool Waters to go ahead.
“I have always believed there is a way forward which will allow us to redevelop the North Liverpool Docks and secure the massive investment and badly-needed new jobs, and to also preserve our World Heritage status. Peel have already made significant alterations to their proposals since drawing up the original plans.
“Peel’s £6 billion plans are vital for the future of what is one the poorest parts of the country and the investment is vital to our city’s future prosperity. However, we are mindful of the need to build a better future for our city in a careful and sensitive way.
“Unesco's delegation found the conservation of our World Heritage site has improved since their last visit in 2006 with our new developments at the Pier Head, at Liverpool One and in the Ropewalks area. Our track record clearly demonstrates we can be trusted to combine the old with the new.
"I am pressing English Heritage, Peel and the city council to redouble their efforts to reach agreement on the best way forward for the Liverpool Waters plans.”
The city's chief executive, Ged Fitzgerald, added: “A public consultation on the Liverpool Waters scheme is under way and we will continue discussions with both English Heritage and Peel, before a decision on the application is made by the Planning Committee in March.
“We will work in collaboration with English Heritage and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to respond to the Mission and its report.”
Unesco’s World Heritage Committee will consider the Liverpool mission’s report later this year.
'Why do they want to build Milton Keynes-On-Sea?'
The view of Wayne Colquhoun, of the Liverpool Preservation Trust
If Peel Holdings are serious, and it's not a planning permission flip, why won't they give us something we can be proud of? Why do they want to build Milton Keynes-On-Sea, what is the point in that?
In 2006, Unesco told the UK Government that Liverpool had to draw up a supplementary planning document that protected it from future administrations and their links with developers.
We are, as a city, charged with managing the WHS not destroying it.