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Exclusive: Government watchdog steps into furore over rice mill

Council asked to put demolition ruling on hold

Written by . Published on July 24th 2014.

Exclusive: Government watchdog steps into furore over rice mill

GOVERNMENT culture watchdog English Heritage has asked Liverpool City Council to put on hold controversial proposals to demolish the threatened Heap’s Rice Mill in the city’s Baltic area.

 Seychelles-based developers want to bulldoze the historic building to pave the way for a high-rise mixed development of apartments, retain and leisure.

But English Heritage says any decision on the mill's futiure should be delayed until after its inspectors have visited the site to determine if it should be spot listed or not.

It also says that plans for a 25-storey block of flats could also fall foul of World Heritage Site regulations.

Retired industrial chemist David Swift contacted English Heritage, as well as the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) to alert them about the rice mill plan.

Mr Swift has now received a reply from Henry Owen-John, head of International Advice at English Heritage.


In the letter, Mr Owen-John, an EH official familiar with Liverpool’s World Heritage Site, says: "Thank you for copying your letters to DCMS to me. I am sure that DCMS will reply to you as soon as they are able.

"I understand from my colleagues in Manchester that Graeme Ives (EH’s area officer) has advised the council that the Heap's Mill proposals should not be considered until the application to have the building listed has been considered, and that the 25 storey element of what is proposed is in conflict with the tall buildings element of the Supplementary Planning Document for the WHS.

"I will draw Heap's Mill to the attention of DCMS who may wish to consider notifying the World Heritage Centre of the proposed development.”

Although the rice mill is outside the World Heritage Site,  it falls within the buffer zone which means any schemes have to respect it.

Although Heap’s Rice Mill is older, by a few decades, than the Albert Dock complex, it is currently not listed on the heritage register. This month English Heritage is expected to decide whether the mill will be listed.  If it is declared to be a Grade II listed building it will considerably change the dynamics of the planning application.

Wayne Colquhoun, of Liverpool Preservation Trust, said: “The response to David Swift speaks for itself. I see it as a broadside to the council that we have to take our World Heritage Status seriously. The rice mill is an important building in Liverpool and deserves to be cherished and preserved.”

A spokesman for Liverpool City Council told Liverpool Confidential: "We have not yet got a date when the application will be coming before the Planning Committee. We are aware of what English Heritage has said and that will taken into account."

*A meeting today (July 24) at 6pm at  the Baltic Creative Café to discuss proposed developments in the area and the threat to the rice mill. It will be chaired by Dr Peter Brown of Merseyside Civic Society.

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

Phillip LawlerJuly 24th 2014.

The Rice Mill is a hollow shell of a building that has been looked after by no-one over the years. The brick work is rotten and it won't be long before it is dangerous. I don't see how a use can be found for it. Yes it is part of history and typical of how Liverpool's docks worked a long time ago but it no longer serves a purpose and is not in a position to serve a purpose in the future. There is a difference between historical buildings that can or should be preserved and buildings that are clapped out and can serve no purpose. Liverpool already has plenty of old warehouses that have been able to be preserved and also because their structure offers conversion possibilities. Holding on to a building just because it is an example of an old Rice mill makes no sense on a number of levels. This is is not a museum city like Venice which relies solely on history and tourism, it is a real living city with large modern functioning elements. Can we be expected to keep such buildings in favour of new buildings that provide offices, homes and retail? The Liverpool preservation trust is welcome to his one man opinion but most re-generation/restoration projects in this city have been spurned on because the old buildings offer a commercial opportunity. There are many hotel companies restoring our old buildings for boutique hotels. They are using buildings that can offer something. The rice mill offers nothing to anyone apart from a pointless sentimental demand to preserve the past without thought for the future.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJuly 24th 2014.

Hear hear! If it is so good, why has nobody had the imagination to find a use for it already?

AnonymousJuly 24th 2014.

I dont think its just one man who has this opinion Philip..I'm glad this has been halted, though I take your point it may be in a bad state. I will go along tonight to hear some more information so I can discuss this with a more informed opinion.

Phillip LawlerJuly 24th 2014.

I meant that the Liverpool Preservation Trust is a one man blog rather than a large group of people running a large lobby group. That aside, there are more chapters to come in this story. Hope tonight is enlightening for you!

2 Responses: Reply To This...
KnowledgeableJuly 24th 2014.

There's a few of them actually

AnonymousJuly 24th 2014.

There are a great many people who want this to be saved and whether Liverpool Preservation Trust is one or 101 it should be saluted for bringing these issues to the forefront of people's thinking.

AnonymousJuly 24th 2014.

So much energy, passion and enthusiasm, but I wonder where it all was until someone with a bit of get up and go proposed a scheme....seems no-one gave a Donald until then? How did it get to the state it's in with such a huge groundswell of support? Hmmmm

Mickeydrippin'July 24th 2014.

Quite possibly the developers will now pull out, to the delight of both Wayne and English Heritage. The building will then be left derelict for another period of time and, unless another developer comes along with plans to covert it into apartments or yet another hotel, it could eventually be considered a dangerous structure. Demolition may then be the only option

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJuly 25th 2014.

Then it is w win win

David ThompsonJuly 25th 2014.

Excellent news that the impending demolition of the Heaps Rice Mill has been stopped, for a while at least. It is a fantastic building that reminds us of the sheer scale of the warehouses that used to exist in this area. I can't see why the developers are not automatically turning it into apartments as warehouse conversions across the city are a popular way of re-using these fantastic buildings. I guess some 'value engineering' is involved somewhere along the line…... A pity that the water has been muddied by an associated concern given about a tall apartment building being built……this was never a landscape dominated by low rise, domestic scale buildings, but by large, bulky and often tall warehousing. There's a slightly odd presumption in English Heritage and some conservationists that Tall =Bad, a nonsense in a city where the architectural heritage is for big, tall buildings! Liverpool's architecture has much more in common with New York than it does with York and yet we are now treated as if our legacy is the same. It isn't.

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