UNESCO has placed Liverpool on the list of World Heritage sites in danger due to fears that a proposed residential and commercial property development will have a negative impact on the city’s waterfront.
The £5.5 billion proposal for the 60 hectare Liverpool Waters site is on the scale of Canary Wharf and includes the tallest building in the UK outside London. It will provide 1.7 million sq metres of offices, shops and apartments that the developers, Peel, claim will attract international businesses and create 17,000 jobs over the next 40 years.
Because the area was recently declared an Enterprise Zone businesses taking up space in the proposed commercial properties have the added incentive of potentially receiving 100 per cent business rates relief for the first five years of occupancy. In addition the government would support the provision of superfast broadband.
However UNESCO is concerned that the cluster of skyscrapers will significantly alter the skyline and profile of the site which was awarded World Heritage status in 2004. Inspectors warned that, if, if the scheme is given the go ahead, the area will be “irreversibly damaged” and suffer a “serious loss of historical authenticity.”
Now there are fears that Liverpool could be stripped of its prestigious World Heritage status, which would be damaging to the city’s international standing.
UNESCO is not alone in its criticism. Recently Rowan Moore, the Observer’s architecture critic, described it as a “very average commercial development” and warned that it will dwarf the historic warehouses on the site. He went on to suggest that the proposal was simply a way of Peel raising the value of its derelict north docks land.
Despite the criticism, the planning application has received the approval of Liverpool City Council. It will now go to Local Government Minister Eric Pickles who has the power to order a public inquiry. It’s unlikely he will be able to ignore UNESCO’s warning and with Peel threatening to walk away if the scheme isn’t approved, the outcome appears to hang in the balance.