Liverpool Waters plan approved despite World Heritage threat

Liverpool waterfront with proposed development (artist impression) The development is planned for the central docks area north of the city centre

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A £5.5bn waterfront development which could put Liverpool's World Heritage Site status at risk has been approved.

City councillors backed the scheme at a meeting earlier. It will now go before the secretary of state.

English Heritage said the city council had "significantly downplayed the adverse impacts of the development on Liverpool's outstanding heritage".

Unesco inspectors had warned approval could lead to the removal of the city from its list of World Heritage Sites.

'Vote of confidence'

The Liverpool Waters planning application includes a cruise liner terminal, thousands of apartments and the tallest UK building outside London.

Bidders Peel Developments said the scheme could create up to 20,000 jobs.

Analysis

The number of people at today's planning meeting was, perhaps unsurprisingly, higher than such proceedings usually attract - although those numbers were swelled by the large media representation and a visiting delegation from Shanghai.

During the meeting Peel again set out its vision of how the waterfront could look in 30 years' time - with most of those who addressed the committee giving their backing to the plans. But still some remain unconvinced.

The few who did express their objections all stated they're not against the idea of regeneration, but don't feel the scheme currently on offer is appropriate.

Those disagreements are likely to continue. But one thing that will unite both those for and against is the wait to see if the scheme will now go to a public inquiry.

Joe Anderson, leader of Labour-run Liverpool City Council, said the decision was "one of the most significant and far-reaching made in Liverpool's recent history" and "a vote of confidence in a new beginning of a great city".

The application will now be referred to the secretary of state for communities and local government who will decide if it requires a public inquiry.

Lindsey Ashworth, Peel development director, said: "The scheme that we've put forward is the result of all the discussions we've had with English Heritage.

"Unless we move on with the scheme we've got now, we'd be talking for the next 10 years.

"Of course I'm bothered about it [World Heritage status], I just don't believe it will ever be lost.

"The reasons I made the changes to the scheme was to make sure we preserved the World Heritage Status.

"This is as far as I want to go and I want the government on-side. I think the government will say this is fine."

Start Quote

We now have the prospect of one of the most ambitious schemes ever seen in this country taking shape ”

End Quote Joe Anderson Leader Liverpool City Council

Liverpool was awarded World Heritage status in 2004, ranking the city alongside the Taj Mahal and Stonehenge.

A report by Unesco inspectors, who visited the city in November to investigate the impact of the development, suggested it would leave the area "irreversibly damaged" and cause a "serious loss of historical authenticity".

In a statement, English Heritage said: "If the scheme in its current form goes ahead, in our view the setting of some of Liverpool's most significant historic buildings will be severely compromised, the archaeological remains of parts of the historic docks are at risk of destruction and the city's historic urban landscape will be permanently unbalanced."

Richard Kemp, deputy leader of Liverpool Liberal Democrats, said: "Liverpool must now act swiftly to mediate between Peel and Unesco.

"Liverpool needs both the new development and heritage status."

Mr Anderson said the council had put in safeguards which could see the development "living comfortably alongside the World Heritage Site".

He continued: "If this application had been rejected then we would have been left with huge stretches of derelict dockland cheek-by-jowl with our World Heritage site.

"Instead we now have the prospect of one of the most ambitious schemes ever seen in this country taking shape - it is one that will transform Liverpool's fortunes for future generations."

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