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25/05/2018

Legal landscape: Development vs heritage at Liverpool Waters

Liverpool Waters masterplan CGI May 2018

Resolving the tensions between development and heritage requires vision, sensitive policymaking and plenty of consultation, says Colette McCormack – even more so when the scheme, Liverpool Waters, falls within a designated World Heritage Site

As the UK economy changes, along with our work and life patterns, it is the role of the planning system, and those that work within it, to ensure that development is delivered that reflects those changes. In some of our great cities such as Liverpool, our historic docks are being developed and this provides an opportunity to acknowledge our heritage while creating neighbourhoods that people want to live in.

But redevelopment of these historic docks is not without its constraints and challenges, in particular in Liverpool, where a number of docks fall within a designated World Heritage Site (WHS) or its buffer zone. Add to that the listed buildings on the waterfront and one can see why redevelopment needs careful planning.

It also requires a vision and a long-term commitment to the redevelopment by the landowner and it is this long-term commitment that makes the difference in terms of successful delivery.

"Liverpool Waters was granted permission locally with no objection from Historic England"

The Liverpool Waters scheme is a case in point. This was always an ambitious project because it involves redevelopment of 60 hectares of disused docks, part in the WHS and part in the buffer zone with listed buildings on site, and it sits adjacent to the iconic (and listed) Three Graces.

However, a key component of this scheme is that the site has one landowner and that landowner has not only ambitions for the site to bring it back into use and connect the docks back to the city, but it importantly has long-term commitment to delivery of the site. This commitment allows the landowner to keep control not only of delivery, but also the quality of design and public realm.

The WHS designation obliges the government to protect the Outstanding Universal Value and this requires a management planto be in place to demonstrate how sites will be protected. In Liverpool there is an adopted supplementary planning document that deals specifically with the WHS and any proposed development has to comply with that policy.

The key for successful development is to continue consulting as the development progresses so, if we look at Liverpool Waters, there was extensive consultation with the local planning authority (LPA), the local community and interest groups during the planning process as well as statutory consultees such as Historic England (if Historic England objects to a planning application it triggers a referral to the secretary of state to use his powers to call in the application for determination. This in turn leads to a public inquiry and adds delay and costs to the scheme).

"One of the innovative initiatives created by the landowner and the LPA is a suite of panels that meet regularly to review development. These panels consider reserved matter applications before submission to the LPA to secure design quality and heritage issues"

Liverpool Waters was granted permission locally with no objection from Historic England. Part of the landowner’s long-term commitment is to continued consultation as the project is delivered over the next 30 years. One of the innovative initiatives created by the landowner and the LPA is a suite of panels that meet regularly to review development. These
panels consider reserved matter applications before submission to the LPA to secure design quality and heritage issues. For a site this big, which will be delivered over a long period of time in phases, a coordination panel has also been created. The LPA sits on all panels and provides input, as do other appropriate organisations such as Historic  England.

These panels are not statutory, but they do provide continued dialogue and valued input into the delivery of the development. The grant of the permission is only the start of the process and successful development will seek input as the scheme evolves, but this is only really effective if there is a clear commitment from the landowner to do this, which again requires vision and commitment to be in the city for the long term. The Liverpool Waters permission allows for development over 30 years and the landowner is committed to continuing to work with the LPA to deliver its vision of a high-quality sustainable development.

Colette McCormack is the planning partner with Winckworth Sherwood. Colette was the lead planning lawyer for the Liverpool Waters landowner, Peel Land and Property

Main image, Liverpool Waters CGI visualisation | Planit

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Liverpool Waters: Anatomy of a regeneration scheme

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