Liverpool picks team to draw up tall buildings policy

Liverpool City Council has appointed Urban Initiatives Studio and Chris Blandford Associates to draw up its tall buildings policy, designed to “set the highest expectations for architectural design”.

The council launched the search for a consultant to prepare the policy in September last year, focussing on promoting well-designed tall buildings “for the right sites” which “respect the significance” of the city’s World Heritage Site.

Urban Initiatives Studio, based in London, has worked on tall buildings and building height strategies for both Bath and the royal borough of Kensington & Chelsea, as well as a building heights study for the city of Belfast.

It has also previously worked with Liverpool Vision and the city council on the design of public spaces to support the city’s Capital of Culture bid in 2008, as well as a masterplan for Liverpool’s commercial quarter. The company is headed up by directors Hugo Nowell and Matthias Wunderlich.

UIS will be supported by Chris Blandford Associates on heritage matters, and by Arup on environmental consultancy.

The tall buildings policy will be adopted as a supplementary planning document by the end of this year and will used to guide three key issues: the height, location, and design of the city’s tall buildings.

UIS, Chris Blandford Associates and Arup will prepare a draft policy which will got public consultation in the summer; this will then go to Liverpool City Council’s cabinet for full approval later in the year.

Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said the policy was about achieving a “delicate balance between encouraging development and complementing the quality of Liverpool’s existing architecture”.

“Liverpool is undergoing a huge transformation and a new tall buildings policy is going to be crucial not only in helping to shape the city’s landscape but also to set the highest expectations for architectural design,” he said.

“I’m delighted we’ve appointed world leaders in this field, both UIS and CBA have a wealth of experience in guiding cities on these issues right across the UK and Ireland and have displayed a great working knowledge of what the city is aiming to achieve. I look forward to seeing the draft plan and sharing their thoughts with the public this summer.”

The move to draw up a tall buildings policy was spurred by criticism from Historic England, which argued Liverpool’s Local Plan, submitted last year, “appears to support the development of tall buildings everywhere in the city, subject to meeting certain requirements which could be applied anywhere in the country, and does not provide a locally specific policy for Liverpool”.

“For a city with such a distinctive waterfront, it is critical that any tall building developments are appropriately sited and that they are designed to relate sensitively to the World Heritage Site and other designated heritage assets across the city,” argued Historic England.

In response, the council said it had “no alternative” but to update the Local Plan to reflect the heritage body’s concerns.

The tallest building currently under construction in the city is Elliot Group’s 39-storey Infinity scheme on Leeds Street, which also includes a further two towers of 33 and 27 storeys.

The current World Heritage status, which was retained in June 2018, stipulates that no new construction in the World Heritage Site reaches higher than the existing buildings, while any new construction at Pier Head should “not dominate, but complement” existing buildings.

Although the city retained its World Heritage status, it remains on a list of “sites in danger”, a position it has held since Peel’s Liverpool Waters scheme was approved in 2012.

Matthias Wunderlich, director at UIS said: “Liverpool is a special city with a rich heritage that has seen rapid growth over the past decade. This study aims to ensure that tall buildings are located in the right places, where they can support place-making, contribute to an attractive skyline and convey a proud city image.

“We have to be mindful of Liverpool’s unique heritage, recognised through its World Heritage Site designation, and ensure that tall buildings contribute to Liverpool as an attractive and legible place to live.”

Andrew Croft, director of CBA, added: “It is always a pleasure to work in Liverpool, it is undoubtedly one of the world’s most dynamic heritage cities and we enjoy the challenge of blending that dynamism with the conservation of its rich architecture and form.

“We are looking forward to working closely with Liverpool City Council and key stakeholders to deliver this challenging and critical commission.”

Your Comments

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Looking forward to some interesting designs to further adorn the City and help retain it’s unique image.

By On the Dock

I used to think of the WHS designation as a bit of a ball and chain, but going forward if it secures higher levels of design and stops the skyline being destroyed by poor quality towers, then maybe it’s not such a bad thing after all.

By Joe Bloggs

Quality over Quantity, good news.

By Dickie Sam

Better late than never I suppose. Some of the tall buildings allowed under Mayor Anderson have been poor to say the least.

By John Smith

How many extra storeys of chipboard rooftop extension to an existing prominent building will be permissable before it too falls under the gaze of this supposedly protective policy?

By Mike

Great news as didn’t wish to see this beautiful city end up with grim 70’s boxy blocks of rubbish .

By Graham

Congratulations to the team on securing this brilliant job! Liverpool is a special place and what you achieve now will leave its mark on our city for generations to come.

By Roscoe

Liverpool is a beautiful city and it’s waterfont offers a skyline that is instantly recognisable. It is reassuring to know that it won’t be ruined by oversized, depressing blocks like other cities. Great news!

By Dave

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