It’s official. Liverpool Waters, the £5.5bn scheme to redevelop the vast swathe of dockland to the North of Liverpool City Centre, has the green light from the Government.
The council, led by Mayor Joe Anderson, had pushed hard for the right to regenerate the Bootle dockland, much of which is unused and derelict, with Peel Holdings, whose Liverpool Waters scheme will see a 50-year project create 3m square foot of commercial development, almost 10,000 new homes and a promised 20,000 jobs.
Liverpool Waters will also include a new cruise liner terminal and leisure facilities such as restaurants, shops and hotels.
Critics of the scheme had pointed to the potential impact on the Liverpool skyline, with English Heritage lodging a formal objection, while UNESCO suggested that Liverpool may lose its coveted World Heritage status for its stunning waterfront, should the scheme go ahead.
However, a bullish council argued that Liverpool badly needs private investment if it is to remain relevant in a changing landscape of austerity economics and a city that is forecast to shrink over coming decades.
In judging that the Liverpool Waters scheme can proceed without public inquiry, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has cleared the last remaining formal obstacle to the redevelopment.
Joe Anderson, who spoke to us recently of his sadness at having to implement budget cuts, signalled his delight at the news:
“This is fantastic news for Liverpool. I’m absolutely delighted that the Secretary of State shares the confidence we have in our ability to deliver this vitally important regeneration scheme, while protecting our architectural heritage.
“Today’s announcement marks the start of a new era for Liverpool, paving to way to us delivering a world class development which will transform a part of the city that has been in desperate need of investment for decades.
“Liverpool Waters will create thousands of jobs and opportunities for local people, as well as providing new housing and attracting new businesses and visitors.
“It’s a huge boost for our city and yet more evidence that despite the recession, regeneration is forging ahead here. We can now look forward to the plans moving forward on this once-in-a-lifetime scheme which will bring huge, lasting benefits to future generations in this city.
Anderson also sounded what could be a conciliatory note to those who feared that the development could be unsympathetic to Liverpool’s famous waterfront, indicating that Peel will be expected to work within set parameters relating to timescales, building heights and phasing of works.
“It’s vital that Peel delivers these plans in a way which meets the conditions set out by the planning committee and we’ll be working closely with them to make sure this is achieved,” said Anderson.
UNESCO had voiced its concern that the height and placement of certain building in Peel’s original plans would dwarf the World Heritage Site and destroy its architectural and cultural value; English Heritage also added its voice to those opposed to the development. Peel Holdings and the Council subsequently worked together to adapt the plans, before submitting them to the Government.
It is not yet clear how UNESCO will respond to the news, having previously suggested that the World Heritage status could be revoked.
Development Director of Peel, Lindsey Ashworth, said the go-ahead would be good news for Liverpool’s efforts to compete in a globalised economy.
“This consent will open up opportunities and new prospects to link our UK businesses with other international businesses such as Asia.
“All cities in the UK have to compete with each other and each has to compete with rival European Cities. Liverpool is now well placed to be alongside the best of the best.
“For Central Docks securing this planning permission is the end of the beginning and the start of another exciting phase of its life that will add to the beauty of Liverpool’s Waterfront and the economic strength of the Liverpool region.”
Liverpool Waters forms only part of an overall masterplan for the Mersey, with a parallel development of the waterfront at Birkenhead planned to create the Mersey Waters Enterprise Zone. Together the two Liverpool developments form part of the massive Atlantic Gateway project that will see Liverpool and Manchester form a global redevelopment hub, bridging the gap between Mersey Waters and Port Salford, which includes Media City.
The Mersey Waters scheme is by far the most ambitious of a number of regeneration projects currently underway or in planning in Liverpool. Major schemes on-site include four new hotels, the refurbishment of the Cunard Building, the rebuilding of the Everyman Theatre, the restoration of Liverpool Central Library which re-opens in May, three major health schemes and 2,515 new homes, including the £25 million Anfield Village development.
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