Lime Street’s master plan, revealed last week, has been roundly, universally and rightly pilloried by everyone – apart from Councillor Nick Small who, on a break from taking selfies with celebrities, said he believed the scheme was a “massive” improvement.
Good to know Mr Small’s standards are set so dizzyingly high for the city. Worth remembering that.
Curiously, Joe Anderson, hours after the Echo readers blasted the scheme, piped up on Twitter: “(these are) not very impressive plans needs and will be reviewed before approval.”
Now let’s look at this statement more closely.
Are these the plans that Regeneration Liverpool has been working on for over a year? Is it right that the first time Joe sees these is in the Echo? Or is more likely that, perhaps, he’d just crossed his fingers crossed and hoped we wouldn’t notice? Who knows what went on.
But, Joe, if you don’t like the plans, why not change them before they’re made public, instead of waiting to see which way the wind will blow? Because we’re still here. And we still care.
Fact is, these are not new plans. We didn’t like them a full ten months ago, when a similarly slipshod artist’s impression was released – showing the same contempt for the street: turning it into something resembling a suburban shopping arcade in pre-perestroika Kiev.
Joe, this is your watch. Lime Street is your legacy. You said so yourself:
“Lime Street has been an area which was forgotten for far too long,” you said, launching the city’s Strategic Investment Framework, two years ago. “I am committed to transforming this into the gateway our world-class city deserves, as it’s one of the first things visitors to our city see when they step off the train.”
Well guess what? The street hasn’t moved in those two years. And neither has its fortunes.
And what of developers, Neptune? Speaking in the Echo, Neptune’s Steve Parry said: “If you come to Liverpool as a student with your mum and dad when you are 17 you get the train to Lime Street, turn left at Mount Pleasant but you’ve got that awful entrance to the city… “If you speak to the universities, one of the biggest reasons why people say they don’t come to Liverpool is the quality of the student accommodation and the approach to campus.”
Who died and put the students in the planning seat? How about making a better city for the rest of us? How high up the priority list are we anyway?
From our vantage point (Lime Street, Saturday afternoon) we’re the only people keeping the street alive. We’re here, milling about in Worlds Apart, mulling over tattoos in Design 4 Life. Drinking in the Shamrock Bar. And, guess what, students are here too. There’s a scrum of them around the Twilight books, if you must know.
We bet Parry’s not been in Worlds Apart recently. We have. Their manager, Alan, says no-one’s been to see them. Not Regeneration Liverpool, Joe, Neptune. No-one. No-one sees that the place is really busy. Reports of its death have been somewhat exaggerated. But, naturally, Alan’s worried: “All we see are the stories in the papers. Don’t you think someone would have had the courtesy to come and talk to us about it?”
Well yeah, you would. But we heard the same stories about Chair of Regeneration, Malcolm Kennedy, from the market traders shoved off Great Homer Street, too.
What’s interesting about all these visualisations and fly-by videos is that none of them show the other side of the street. Because, we feel we should let Regeneration Liverpool in on a secret, Lime Street has two sides.
“We have expansion plans, the landlord’s currently upgrading the facia,” he tells us, pointing to the scaffolding outside. “People know about us, and they still come. If we’re given a CPO, we need to be assured that we’ll get an equally prominent new location. It’s just not right to place all this uncertainty on a business that’s keeping the street going.”
Time and again, it’s the people who keep trading in the toughest of conditions – the market traders, the street vendors, the independents, who are the last to know. Shoved out for supermarkets and student flats.
“My uncle used to be sell tickets at the Futurist,” he says, “he’d be devastated to see what the city’s planning to do to the place. To me, it looks like it was deliberately left to rot so that they could say it has to come down.”
“These schemes demonstrate there is a vibrant, exciting future ahead for Liverpool,” Joe promised, of the Lime Street project. “Lime Street will make the city an even greater place to live, work and invest. “I promised our best days are ahead of us, and these key projects are evidence of some of the things we have planned for the future….”
We think it needs saving. And we think it’s not too late. Its skin might be peeling, but it’s got good bones. The street’s units are small – ideal places for young, enterprising retail and leisure units to test the market. And the perfect introduction to the city for those alighting at Lime Street, or the coach depot. We loved the media hub once-slated for the ABC, we don’t even mind that there’ll be student flats. It makes sense, when you see the plans LJMU have for Copperas Hill .
But it’s the complete lack of ambition for the street-level animation that baffles us. Why can’t Neptune look to Paradise Street? A resounding success, and one that shows it’s possible to breathe new life into an old street, just 500 meters away? Why can’t we save the character of the street, and its jauntily distinctive skyline? Why can’t the street shout: ‘THIS IS LIME STREET. YOU’RE IN LIVERPOOL’?
Regeneration Liverpool, and Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Cllr Malcolm Kennedy, have had more than enough time to prove to us they won’t settle for second best. This master plan clearly shows that, to date, they’ve failed us. Joe Anderson himself admits they’ve failed.
So, if Lime Street’s plans are a crime, we’d say they were guilty as charged.
“We aim to deliver a high quality revitalised Lime Street gateway, which creates the right impression of Liverpool, improve the experiences of visitors, residents and workers; improve the quality of the public realm; and connect up the city,” they promised.
How about, a full two years later, you get to work and instead of identikit apologies for civic planning, you actually come back with something that – for once – exceeds our expectations?
Because, Cllr Kennedy and crew, allow us to remind you of your duties: that’s what a world class city deserves.