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Crunch time looms for Liverpool Waters after Peel ultimatum

We are not a banana republic where officials bow to big business, says Larry Neild

Written by . Published on February 28th 2012.

Crunch time looms for Liverpool Waters after Peel ultimatum

Tuesday March 6, 2.55pm: Update: Liverpool Planning Committee today approved Peel's £5.5bn Liverpool Waters development. The plans will now be referred to central Government


LIVERPOOL'S planning managers today (Tuesday) are calling on the city council's Planning Committee to give the go-ahead to Peel's £5.5bn Liverpool Waters project. 

They accept the green light will have to be referred to Communities Secretary Eric Pickles who will have the legal right to order a public inquiry. 

But Peel's development director, Lindsey Ashworth says if Secretary of State Pickles does order a public inquiry, Peel will pull the plug and simply abandon the project. 

The planners' recommendation also paves the way for a battle with the heritage lobby fighting to protect Liverpool's World Heritage Site. 

Planning Committee members meeting a week today (Tuesday March 6) will spend around two hours touring Liverpool's derelict and mainly disused north dockland estate before heading to the Town Hall to reach a decision. 

Given the overwhelming support for the city's biggest ever redevelopment scheme, it would seem incredible if councillors gave the thumbs-down. 


The council's planning managers pull no punches in what is emerging as a sort of game of Mersey Roulette. The Government's cultural watchdogs, English Heritage, have raised serious concerns. 

Councillors must be aware if the submitted scheme is approved, it is possible, given the stance adopted by UNESCO’s expert advisers, that the World Heritage Committee will place Liverpool on the list of World Heritage In Danger or may hint Liverpool will be booted off the World Heritage List.  

It is clear English Heritage maintains an objection to the proposal as it considers the development will have a damaging impact on the heritage assets of the WHS. 

LW_ClocktowerThe scheme will make provision for public access to key parts of the WHS which are not presently accessible to the public. 

A sister scheme across the Mersey in Wirral was given the go-ahead by Wirral Council and was not called in by the Government. 

Politicians and the public wanting to examine what the issue is all about will have to wade through a council report spanning more than 500 pages.

In a nutshell, though, planning managers insist the scheme can proceed without affecting the so-called “outstanding universal value” of Liverpool's World Heritage Site. 

Unesco, an off-shoot of the United Nations, may see it differently and place Liverpool on the at-risk register if it allows developments that impact upon the WHS. 

This is how the officers' report to the committee concludes: “The Liverpool Waters proposals are clearly unique and have the potential to change the future of the city. The development proposed is on an unprecedented scale, almost beyond living experience, which, if delivered, would transform the city’s waterfront, creating a new international business destination, expand the city’s economy and regenerate north Liverpool.” 

In a reassuring note, officers say the delivery of Liverpool Waters will ensure important heritage assets are retained, conserved and maintained. The scheme will make provision for public access to key parts of the WHS which are not presently accessible to the public. 


However, it is clear there are still a number of objections about the damage it is perceived may be caused to the heritage assets within the site and the WHS generally. These objections are expressed lucidly in the representations received from UNESCO and English Heritage.

The City Council’s own Heritage Impact Assessment shows the proposal does not include any significant adverse physical intervention in the historic fabric of the WHS, and the beneficial impacts for the site’s cultural heritage outweigh the adverse impacts on the site’s cultural heritage. 

In short, Liverpool has no choice but to refer the application so the Secretary of State can consider whether he wishes to “call in” the application for his own decision.

If he does choose to call it in, the process would be likely to necessitate a public inquiry first being held and, in that event, says Peel, all bets would be off.


'Let's await the outcome, without fear, favour or bully-boy threats'


By Larry Neild

Liverpool Waters is a mouth-watering development any area would die for, hopefully making our cocky neighbour Manchester green with envy. 

The complication of its being at the epi-centre of a Unesco World Heritage Site is an issue. 

We freely entered into an agreement to care for the Outstanding Universal Value of the WHS, and it is impossible to see how that Scout's honour promise can sit comfortably with what is the biggest development plan anywhere in the UK so far this century. 

We can't turn our backs on a massive scheme, capable of delivering thousands of new jobs, just because we are the custodians of a defunct 18th century dock system. 

I'm not an architect, but how can anybody say Liverpool Waters will not impact on the OUV of the World Heritage Site? 

I'm tempted to say if I was a politician 
and I heard that gun-to-my-head threat,
I'd want to say 'tatty-bye then'

Maybe Liverpool has to take a pot, and hope the council, Peel and Unesco will see eye to eye. As the report, somewhere within its 500-plus pages, points out, Liverpool is not a museum. 

Yet I feel uncomfortable with the proclamation from Peel. In stark, no-pinches-pulled, straight talking, Peel says if the city fails to approve the Liverpool Waters plan, or if the government calls it in for a public inquiry, the developer will simply abandon its plan and walk away. 

I'm tempted to say if I was a politician and I heard that gun-to-my-head threat, I'd want to say “tatty-bye then”. 

We live in a democracy where there are proper procedures and a trusted mechanism to decide such matters. We are not a banana republic where officials willingly and happily rubber stamp things to suit big business. 

If a public inquiry is ordered Peel should remain patient a little longer – after all, the plan will span four decades. 

Bowing to threats of taking the ball away smacks of Liverpool eventually changing its name to Liverpeel. 

If that is the case I'd stick with the derelict docks. Let the due processes take their course and let's await the outcome, without fear, favour or bully-boy threats. 

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17 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Paul RiccioFebruary 28th 2012.

i have no doubt the planning committee will rubber stamp this project,they certainly would if it was benmore
who were seeking planning permission.
these people are a law to them selves and can only see pound signs regardless of the lives of others it may affect

Paul WardFebruary 28th 2012.

The city's Heritage Impact Assessment is a disgrace: the current rulers long ago lubed up and invited Peel to have at it.

Reader XxxFebruary 28th 2012.

Peel's threat smacks of dummies and prams. If this development is to go ahead it needs a sound foundation. Local and central government need to be fully behind it, and UNESCO has to be taken along too. Liverpool Waters would be a wonderful riposte to my neighbour whose son has moved to Canada "because there's nothing for the next generation here". Peel must be patient.

Ros CommonFebruary 28th 2012.

'Given the overwhelming support for the city's biggest ever redevelopment scheme, it would seem incredible if councillors gave the thumbs-down.'

Overwhelming support from whom? Certainly not the people of Liverpool who know bullshit and bullying when they see it. The whole scheme just doesn't stack up and the council seems unable to take Peel on because of fears that it will be seen as unwelcoming to business/development so it aquiesces to a scheme that is in Peel's interests and not Liverpool's. The figures quoted about employment opportunities are flown straight in from cloud-cuckoo land. Nigel Lee (top honcho in the planning dept) quotes them as if they were carved in stone by God himself. The eagerness to lube up and take everything Peel wants to give without even flinching is, quite frankly, appalling and an abdication of civic responsibility.

You only have to shout 'jobs' in a poor city and thick politicians are falling over themselves backwards and suspending critical judgement.

I predict tears before bedtime for everyone!

Paul StrongFebruary 28th 2012.

Ros, you are perfectly correct in all of that. and thank you Larry for not toadying up to Peel like the Echo have. When are we going to get some intelligent politicians in this city instead of fawning amateurs?

London RoadFebruary 28th 2012.

The thought of Joe Anderson "lubing up" has put a very unfortunate picture in my head which I now cannot shake

AnonymousFebruary 28th 2012.

"Nigel Lee (top honcho in the planning dept) quotes them as if they were carved in stone by God himself."

This is the whole problem. The council has talked itself into believing that this vision of the future is actually all true and set in stone. It's CGI and it's talk. Nothing more. None of us will be around in 50 years to say "told you so"

davyFebruary 28th 2012.

This article really says it all:


The scheme should only go ahead if robust evidence is produced to confirm market demand for the proposed office developments. My own feeling is that it will turn out to be a costly white elephant.

EditorialFebruary 28th 2012.

Nigel Lee left the employ of LCC some time ago

The Voice of ReasonFebruary 28th 2012.

Hear hear Davy! Liverpool already has more empty office space than you can shake a stick at. The only jobs the new development will provide will be for security guards.

If these office buildings are miraculously occupied, there will be a few more jobs for caretakers and cleaners - or rather for the low-paying private agencies that already have this sector stitched up.

It's not as if they'll be building a prestige car plant (handy for the docks) to create lucrative exports, generate proper well-paid skilled jobs and boost the real wealth of the area.

the 15th doctorFebruary 28th 2012.

probably never happen anyway

Louise RamseyFebruary 28th 2012.

This development and Wirral Waters are two of the most important developments in the UK not just the North West. The significant amount of foreign (Chinese) investment is unprecedented and this will be of great benefit to the UK as a whole. If the government supports this development it will send a clear signal that the UK is open for big business and big investment. If we block this type of project then it will be an unmitigated disaster for the UK. A development of this scale will bring the waterfront closer to those in Hong Kong, Shanghai, and New York and with the growing cruise industry would make Liverpool a very attractive proposition. It is not a time to wait it is a time to make bold decisions and plans for the future. Do you want to keep the derelict eyesore that is there now or turn it into a world class water front? How many times have we seen Liverpool lose out due to bad planning decisions or squabbling over petty issues or relatively small amounts of money? The original stadium on the Water Front, the original fourth grace, the tram network, to name but a few. By the nature of the development it will bring jobs, it will bring more investment, and it will bring tourism. The same arguments were made when the three graces were proposed and look what we think of them now. We are already being bypassed just look at the proposed new train line going nowhere near Liverpool. This type of development might just make them rethink and bring the line back to Liverpool where it should be. Each and everyone of us should get behind this project and make sure it happens.

Andy MedinaFebruary 29th 2012.

I believe the development should go ahead...it will be fantastic. Why is it though that every time anything happens or is planned, Manchester always gets mentioned? (see Larry Neild's comments). Do you think anything that happens in Manchester (apart from football!) is ever compared to anything in Liverpool. Sadly no...they measure themselves against London not Liverpool! As for being "green with envy" not a chance! To anyone in Manchester who actually gets to hear about this, it will simply be a very nice place to visit nearby. Time we let it go and started think a bit bigger.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousMarch 1st 2012.

i agree, i am from manchester and read liv confidential as i love the city. Don't alienate readers who come from manchester with the age old liv-manc feud.

AnonymousFebruary 29th 2012.

Peel have clearly unleashed their PR rep.

Investors don't invest in projects that don't have planning permission. Accordingly the only current investment interest is in a giant distribution shed on the Wirral side of the river. And that will most likely remain the limit of investor interest as much of the rest of the scheme is simply unviable.

Maybe I should buy up some cheap, derelict dock land somewhere else and turn a similar trick. Grimsby Waters anyone? Newcastle Waters?

Nothing against Liverpool, mind. A fine city. But do object to Peel Holdings assuming people are gullible enough to be taken in by their spiel; that a few pretty pictures are anything other than what they really represent - a cynical attempt to capture public funding, influence the planning process and ultimately increase the value of their land bank.

AnonymousMarch 2nd 2012.

Of course the city council will give permission on Tuesday. They would be mad to do otherwise. When that government chap, Wilfred Pickles and his Whitehall advisers, get their hands on it, things might change, mainly because they will have to address the issue of World Heritage Status. Officially the UK Government is the State authority granted WHS for Liverpool, and the city council manage it. English Heritage is a UK Government offshoot. So when the talking starts (in London) things may well be seen less positively than here in Merseyside. Peel's PR people would have been better advising the use of a charm offensive, rather than a harm offensive with their threats of pulling out. Not sure whether Liverpool needs a developer whose idea of democracy is, you can give any any you wish so long as it is YES.

AnonymousMarch 5th 2012.

Isnt it standard practice to threten to take your ball home if a big project gets called in? I thought everyone said the same thing in an attempt to save money on the delays and professional fees of a year of infighting.

Besides if a years delay would make a project of this size unprofitable then the business case for the development probably isn't their in the first place.


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