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Scaling the heights

Liverpool City Council's new leader, Warren Bradley, may be on the verge of a breakthrough in his battle to support taller buildings.

10.03.2006
By Paul Unger

Just weeks into his new role as leader of Liverpool City Council, councillor Warren Bradley has moved to block the adoption of a controversial tall buildings policy in a bid to simplify the planning process for developers.

The policy, which designated so-called cluster areas for tall buildings, was due to be adopted as a statutory supplementary planning document later this month, but will instead become a guidance paper.

Whether the move is enough to halt a spate of tussles between developers, planning officers and English Heritage over the correct scale of the Liverpool skyline remains to be seen.

‘Yes, we should have guidance notes for the planning department to know what we want, but we should take each building on its merits,' Bradley explains. ‘That is something developers told me, and I changed it almost immediately.'

Bradley was voted in as leader in December by the ruling Liberal Democrats, after councillor Mike Storey resigned because of ‘an error of judgment' following an email in which he allegedly tried to plot the downfall of chief executive Sir David Henshaw. Storey has come back as head of special initiatives, while Henshaw took early retirement to avoid changes to taxation on public sector pensions.

‘Ultimately, it's about listening,' Bradley continues. ‘We were successful in the late 90s and early 2000s because it was about listening, and I think we've forgotten to do that.'

Developers have reacted cautiously to news of the policy demotion, while they wait for the fine detail and its true impact to become clear.

Whatever the outcome, Bradley and the planning authority have to balance the city's economic growth and appetite for construction with the badges of European Capital of Culture and Liverpool's status as a United Nations World Heritage site. This tug-of-love between old and new is causing developers, planners, heritage officials and public agencies repeated headaches over how best to move forward.

The draft Tall Buildings Policy was first sent out for consultation in December 2004, after guidance issued by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister in 2002 warned against the ad hoc placement of towers. A final draft was recently circulated, and will be considered by the council's executive board later this month.

Paring down

This latest version, seen by Property Week, reveals that three cluster areas have been reduced to two, as the Lime Street allocation has been removed. This is consistent with English Heritage's view that a single beacon tower, namely Lime Street Gateway, should sit in the area. The remaining clusters are around the Old Hall Street commercial district in the north and the area between Parliament Street and Sefton Street to the south of the city centre.

Privately, most developers say they do not have the time or money to test English Heritage's objections at a public inquiry, and would prefer to sacrifice height and units to secure a scheme sooner rather than later.

Developers Merepark and Ballymore are the latest to settle for a compromise in the face of English Heritage objections. Last month they agreed to reduce the tower at their Central Village scheme from 38 to 25 storeys.

Even Liverpool Vision, the city's urban regeneration company, felt the force of English Heritage on the Lime Street Gateway tower it masterplanned next to the main railway station. English Heritage's objections were such that Liverpool Vision bowed under the pressure. A scheme with fewer floors, to be developed by Iliad and English Partnerships, was duly submitted and approved.

Liverpool Vision chief executive Jim Gill hints at concerns. ‘The World Heritage standpoint is a consideration today and some outside the city do take a very rigid view of what it means,' he says. ‘Does it constitute an unreasonable intrusion of the development process?'

But Gill adds diplomatically: ‘Liverpool is in a situation it hasn't known for more than 100 years in terms of the level of development interest, so everybody's learning. It's not just the city council, it's developers as well.'

Henry Owen-John, regional director of English Heritage, is just as concerned at the damage the debate is having on his organisation's reputation. ‘We are trying to keep the economic values there for developers through redesign where deemed necessary,' he says. ‘The city needs to grow to afford to retain its heritage, but its international reputation depends on its appearance and has to be treated responsibly.'

English Heritage says a taller tower at Lime Street Gateway, along with other proposals it found objectionable, would have detracted from the views of the two cathedrals from the waterfront and the Wirral peninsula. Owen-John admits these are subjective matters, but says English Heritage and the council are now responsible for reporting to the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, the body which granted but may also remove World Heritage status if it is abused.

‘We potentially would have gone higher, yes,' says Bill Addy, development director of David McLean, when asked about the effect of the height restriction of 22 storeys on the mixed-use Kings Waterfront site.

Clearly, Owen-John's assertion that English Heritage is just another statutory consultee and does not have power of veto over planners is hard to accept when confronted with its recent track record. As the problem grows, there are concerns that land values will soar in designated cluster areas and threaten the viability of quality buildings.

Bradley seems open-minded. ‘I would have been more relaxed [about tall buildings],' he says. ‘I don't know why English Heritage has got certain views. Is it being politically motivated? I just see positive or negative press, so I want to get to the bottom of that.'

There are plenty of developers who hope he succeeds, and fast.

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Liverpool’s high hopes

COMPLETED

* Beetham Tower, Old Hall Street: 27 storeys. Beetham Organization completed in 2004.

ON SITE

* West Tower on Old Hall Street: Beetham is developing 40 storeys in northern cluster area.

* Princes Dock: City Lofts is building 20 storeys.

* Unity on Chapel Street off Old Hall Street: Rumford Investments is building 27 storeys.

* Princes Dock: Millennium Estates, 25 storeys.


PLANNED
o Sefton Street Quarter: Vermont revised plans from 40 storeys to 22 in the southern cluster area. Planning application submitted.

o Park Lane, Baltic Triangle: Windsor Developments’ plans revised from 24 to 17 storeys. Application due shortly.

o Skelhorne Street: Chieftain revised plans from 32 to 28 storeys in former cluster area, which were then rejected on design and massing grounds. Due for public inquiry in April.

o Brunswick Quay: Maro Developments’ 50-storey development on the edge of the southern cluster area was rejected because of displacement of businesses and conflict with Housing Market Renewal Initiative. Pending planning appeal, the date of which is to be fixed.

o Central Village, between Bold Street and Renshaw Street: Merepark and Ballymore in negotiations with English Heritage. Likely to drop from 38 to 25 storeys.

o Lime Street Gateway: Iliad and English Partnerships have had permission granted for 27 storeys. Developers wanted around 40.

o Kings Waterfront: developer David Mclean limited to maximum of 22 storeys set by English Heritage. Probably would have gone higher.

VISIONS

o On car park of Royal & Sun Alliance building, also known as the ‘sandcastle’, off Old Hall Street: Downing Developments to build residential tower, in the northern cluster area. Height unknown.

o Irwell Chambers, Union Street off Old Hall Street: Albany Assets opening talks about tower in the northern cluster area. Height unknown.

o King Edward tower, Leeds Street: Vantage Properties has early design for 48 storeys in the northern cluster area.

o Princes Dock, next to City Lofts scheme: Merseyside Property Developments has plans for a 37-storey building. Planning application due shortly.
 

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Overall, this seems positive. The role of EH is made explicit. I guess the next step is to emphasise the cost to the city of continuing with this approach.
 

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Odd one that.

What happens if Chieftan win the appeal for Skelhorne Street?

That will blow a massive hole in this 'cluster' policy and will no doubt encourage Merepark at central.

Better news for the Princes Dock/King Eddie/Old Hall Street area though, now that Unity is up and the massing, density and height are bulking, you can see a big hole that could do with filling on the car park at RSA.

I'd still prefer developers to put forward proposals and for an open minded, non 'heritage' prejudiced planning department to view each application on it's own merits.


Is Bradleys approach the first signs of a more dynamic and open ended approach?
 

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Is Warren off the fence?........................

dom said:
Scaling the heights

Liverpool City Council's new leader, Warren Bradley, may be on the verge of a breakthrough in his battle to support taller buildings.



VISIONS

o On car park of Royal & Sun Alliance building, also known as the ‘sandcastle’, off Old Hall Street: Downing Developments to build residential tower, in the northern cluster area. Height unknown.

o Irwell Chambers, Union Street off Old Hall Street: Albany Assets opening talks about tower in the northern cluster area. Height unknown.

o King Edward tower, Leeds Street: Vantage Properties has early design for 48 storeys in the northern cluster area.

o Princes Dock, next to City Lofts scheme: Merseyside Property Developments has plans for a 37-storey building. Planning application due shortly.
Well the above is very interesting, with these possible towers in the pipeline, Warren Bradley must have seen trouble looming tall on the horizon, and taken the sensible approach of sacrificing the Lime St cluster in favour of the CBD.

With the Windsor news in todays DP, it is now apparent that 22 storey`s is the limit for the Baltic Triangle area. One sad and baffling news item is the reduction from 38 to 25 storey`s the Central Village Tower, just does not make any sought of sense.
 

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The scaling down of the Central tower from 38 to 25 makes no sense to me from an aesthitic point of view, it will still be significant and dominate it's environment visually but in a stunted and restrained way. If the heritage heads had demanded say 12/15 storeys max then I might see what they were after, but this smacks of comprimise giving the olde worlde lobby a little 'win'.
 

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Toadboy said:
but this smacks of comprimise giving the olde worlde lobby a little 'win'.
I agree. This is deeply, deeply pathetic. In every sense it is just transparent egotism and idiocy. These people make me sick to the stomach.

However, as long as the design of the tower, and extent of the public realm, isn't compromised, then I will be willing to forget about it. Perhaps they will increase the lower buildings a bit?
 

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Madness, pure Madness.................

Toadboy said:
The scaling down of the Central tower from 38 to 25 makes no sense to me from an aesthitic point of view, it will still be significant and dominate it's environment visually but in a stunted and restrained way. .
Must agree, but to lose 13 floors off this tower is crazy, will EH / city planning give the developer an opportunity to make good the lost sq.M ?

May be the lower blocks will gain a floor or two, or will we see twotowers say 1 x 25 and 1 x 13 ?
What ever happens , this marvellous scheme has been butchered for no good reason.

Warren , this would be a good one for you to have a go at!! :) ,in your new role as "Champion of Business", sought this out and lets get this "black hole " in our city filled.
 

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Toadboy said:
The scaling down of the Central tower from 38 to 25 makes no sense to me from an aesthitic point of view, it will still be significant and dominate it's environment visually but in a stunted and restrained way. If the heritage heads had demanded say 12/15 storeys max then I might see what they were after, but this smacks of comprimise giving the olde worlde lobby a little 'win'.

This is exactly the case.
They seem to think that a reduction of a few floors is a great victory.
Really it doesn't make much difference so why bother apart from exerting their authority.
They really do make prats of themselves. :cheers:
 

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One quick point about the heritage lobby, are they depriving future generations of architectural heritage?

Why don't they see the Edwardian and Victorian splendour as old world Betham, Merpark, Cheftain etc. to give themselves context.
 

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It stinks about Central Village, but we all saw that coming, didn't we? The Toad's point about the tower still being 25 storeys amd so still dominating it's surrounds is spot on, meaning that the loss of the 13 floors was for nothing but EH's and their sympathisers' own pride and stubborness.
 

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Warren Bradley's demotion of the (Anti) Tall Buildings Policy is good news however. We always slag off our councillors when we don't agree with them, so it's only fair to comend them when they appear to be actually doing something right. It remains to be seen what effect this will have on the planning department. Let's hope we see a more positive approach and less emphasis given to EH, a bunch of Whithall civil servants which the citizens of this city never had the privilege to elect. The same thing goes for the UNESCO crew too (potentially way more harmful than EH), but I can't see the council budging on that one, sadly.
 

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Where did this come from?
Is there a link?
This is basically all of the arguments we havae been on about here and on the downtown site for the last three years!!!!!!!

Needs to be pushed on to next level now... so be sure to ALL get to this next 21st century Liverpool meeting?
 

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Little concerned about my beloved RSA building. Surely constructing a residential tower on the car park(which is to the front of the block???) will mean demolition and effectively wreck the form of the whole structure. However, I know there was always an intention to build a possible extension to RSA, so maybe their proposal is a continuation of that, an integral part of the structure. Hope it's the latter, because RSA sandcastle is too important to lose.
 

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I think it would have to respect the RSA in someway, quite how they'd do that is another matter.

Does all this bring the car park adjacent to the Pig and Whistle into play?
 

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Where did this come from?
Is there a link?
It's on Property Week www.property-week.co.uk/ , but you have to subscribe.

I'm very annoyed by the Central Station height reducition and the 18 storeys knocked off the Vermont tower but I can't wait to see these new towers for the cluster. 37 storeys on Princes Dock, a tower from Albany off Old Hall Street, a tower next to the RSA! :)
 

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Mr. Pope, will not be a happy bunny...........

Liverdude said:
. 37 storeys on Princes Dock, a tower from Albany off Old Hall Street, a tower next to the RSA! :)
Liverdude, that 37 storey tower will sit slap bang in front of Beetham 1, remember a certain Mr. Nick Pope tried to stop Beetham West Tower, I dread to think what he will do if he sees this monster between him and the river. :eek2:
 
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