Salthouse Docks in Liverpool c PNW

The ceiling for tall buildings in the city has been set at 50 storeys. Credit: PNW

Liverpool to adopt tall buildings policy 

A framework outlining where developers can deliver towers, and how tall they can be, is due to be rubber-stamped next week as the city council moves to “sensitively handle” the curation of the skyline. 

First revealed in the summer of 2022, Liverpool City Council’s Tall Buildings Supplementary Planning Document breaks down the city into clusters and sets out height parameters for each. 

The five clusters identified in the SPD are: 

  • Liverpool Waters 
  • Commercial District 
  • Leeds Street / Pall Mall 
  • Paddington Village 
  • City Centre South Cluster 

Of these areas, the city centre cluster is earmarked for the tallest buildings with a guideline of up to 50 storeys set around Gilbraltar Row, owned by Peel L&P.

A sixth cluster that was originally proposed around Central Station, which proposed buildings of up to 25 storeys, has been removed from the SPD following the consultation period. 

The aim of the SPD is to ensure that tall buildings come forward in areas deemed appropriate by the city council and make a “positive contribution to Liverpool’s skyline, distinctiveness and image, the city’s growth, and the delivery of high quality and sustainable places”, according to the authority. 

In addition, by keeping tighter control of the heights of buildings, the council hopes to protect the city’s heritage, certain views and Liverpool’s “unique and world-renowned image”.  

“Liverpool’s skyline is world famous and its development needs to be sensitively handled,” said Cllr Nick Small, cabinet member for economy and development. 

“We need to ensure its historic character and charm are maintained, whilst allowing for economic growth and job creation.” 

The policy also states that developers will have to prove their schemes pass four tests by demonstrating: 

  • A clear purpose and role for the tall building to directly support regeneration 
  • The proposed height is appropriate to the role or function of the locality 
  • It positively contributes to an area and its scale is appropriate to its surroundings 
  • The impacts on sensitivities have been fully considered. 

“We want to ensure our next generation of tall buildings will have a long-term purpose and can instil pride when we look up at them – both for how they look – and what they offer,” Small added. 

The tall buildings document will enter into a growing suite of frameworks, including the local plan and an emerging waterfront strategy, that will inform planning decisions. 

As well as preserving the character of the city, the SPD is also aimed at helping Liverpool reach its net zero targets. 

“This a very timely document as it will help guide and shape our new waterfront strategy and set a clear path as to how developments can provide growth for the future, without impacting on climate change and net-zero ambitions,” Small said. 

“Maintaining that balance between environment and regeneration runs throughout the heart of this policy and it has set out clear principles around design, quality and sustainability and what the city expects from developers to meet those standards” 

Liverpool City Council moved quickly to draft up its tall buildings policy after UNESCO stripped the city of its World Heritage Site status. 

The emergence of a defined stance on developments of height in the city was not welcomed by everyone. Some commentators said the policy would stymie development and act as a barrier to growth.  

However, others have embraced the authority’s approach, saying it will preserve the city’s identity and result in better thought-out and higher quality developments. 

“This Tall Buildings SPD sets out a framework with a clear objective to guide the development of tall buildings in a positive and proactive manner,” said Samantha Campbell, Liverpool City Council’s director of planning and building control. 

“Tall buildings can play an essential part of Liverpool’s growth and regeneration. Indeed, Liverpool has a great tradition of building tall, notably with the Liver Building on the waterfront and skyscraper construction used at Oriel Chambers, Water Street.” 

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50 storey limit? so if Canary Wharf group wanted to invest 2 billion in to a new development with towers up to 80 storeys on derelict land in Liverpool LCC would decline it? crazy. A big city should think and behave like a big city. A 50 plus storey tower located on the old docks would have zero effect on any heritage as there’s nothing there. Liverpool should try and be more like Rotterdam, modern, affluent, open to development, historical and plenty of well paid jobs.

By GetItBuilt!

Well we can hope, with the “four tests” are they going to be subjective to the wants and views of particular Councillors?
Is the same criteria applied in other authorities?
More importantly the financial resources of the developer should be considered so Liverpool does not see any further stalled projects.
One or two are appearing on the scene again.

By Liverpool4Progress

Liverpool will be left behind by Manchester if they are limiting towers to 50 storeys

By Giant Skyscraper Fan

The shadow of UNESCO remains , so not only are they designating “tall” areas they are going to restrict height, and when these zones are full what then.
This council as usual is too busy putting restrictions in place rather than encouraging development and design.
As ever referring to the historic waterfront,which itself broke the rules on tall buildings when the Liver Building appeared.
These councillors turn a blind eye to the state of the city at the moment with chunks of demolished flyover still standing, broken pavements everywhere , weeds in gutters etc excused as rewilding,litter left for weeks/months on end, eyesore stalled sites with no sign of re-starting covered in out of control shrubs and rubble.

By Anonymous

This is what Manchester needs. Instead of 10 boring identical glass buildings next to each other.

By Anonymous

The belief that Liverpool’s skyline is “world famous” is one of the major factors holding development back. The skyline is NOT world famous. Sure, development needs to be sensitive due to the some significant listed buildings and previous UNESCO designation but it’s important not to let this evolve into a belief that the streetscape and skyline is more important than it is and in doing so, shooting ourselves in the foot.

By Anonymous

Tall being a relative term of course. Something would be nice though.

By Anonymous

‘Help meet its Net zero targets ?’ I guess they are going to build them from bamboo stuck together by the tears of Unicorns. We want concrete and glass and lots of it..the taller the better. I’m not holding my breath..I did that about 15 yrs ago, fool me once.

By Wirralwanderer

Liverpool’s Skyline isn’t world famous

By CityCentre

Open for business or not…just another blocker from some clown that will probably be gone in a few months. The potential + opportunity are there…just no brains or vision from the clowns employed at city. Typed while in Manchester looking that the city grow and grow…!

By Alan Robson (Project Four)

Watch out New York, Shanghai and London!

By Simon Clarke

Once again we see policy infused with the ideology of ‘command and control’, which forgets that developers are free to go elsewhere. And, as we know from the last three years, that’s exactly what they’ve done. Once again, the language and tone is wrong and there seems to be no-one in the council with the cop-on to recognise this and seek to change the mood-music.

By Sceptical

Amazing how they are going to make a song and dance about this, yet they a year late in delivering this.
No doubt Kings Dock will have preference as LCC are in the process of selling this off in 7 plots, so will want to dangle a huge carrot.
They need to stop banging on about the waterfront, Unesco status if lost, so move on and maximise the space that there and challenge other cities like Manchester as a place to invest, not forever sit in it shadow.
This seems to have more of a Foundations feel about it than a game changing feel about it, given half of the people who approved that White Elephant it are still in place at LCC!

By Anonymous

We now know the maximum height but what is the minimum height of a building LCC sees as being classed as a tall building. This is important as it will have implications for the rest of the city centre.

By David

Sorry Anonymous 11.26…this is about Liverpool. …also Manchester has a lot more than just 10 identical buildings …if you visit bring some of LCC councillors with you. They need some ideas.

By Anonymous

Ridiculous – how to NW councils always seem to end up getting it so wrong! Liverpool’s Waterfront COULD be transformed into something world renowned, but at the minute I promise you it isn’t.

By Kloppenheimer

Although I am not a Liverpudlian, to say that Liverpool’s cityscape is not world famous, is nonsense. It is the only big English city outside London, immediately recognisable from photographs.

By Elephant

I’m sure I’ve heard this speech before. Slightly rehashed but pretty much the same old tosh.

By Anonymous

We’ve been going round and round for decades on this. Anyone remember Warren Bradley and his for it / against it stance depending upon who his audience were.

By Verum

A riveride walk, pleasant and safe (cameras and lights), from the old Liverpool docks to the new Everton Stadium and Container Terminal is what I want. And a canal boat shuttle service on match days, as well. Start it and the tourists will come.

By Anonymous

LCC going round on circles again never mind going tall.
They need to be flexible in their assessment of potential talks.
Quality imo comes first, and the opportunity for the developer to make a good ROI.
If they can’t then the quality will suffer.
So once again we live in hope will LCC see a good opportunity when it arrives or stick to rigid constraints and regulations?

By Liverpolitis

I hope LCC are listening to Starmer’s speech on planning?

By Just saying

The negative reactions here are quite odd as at the very least this guidance – and remember an SPD is only guidance – provides some certainty as to where tall buildings could be accepted. Given how often people have been quoted here or comment here that they don’t know what the outcome of an application would be, or that they are shocked (shocked, say!) they got bounced out then this could at least help.

It may not meet the aspirations of many of us in the peanut gallery but it has to be borne in mind that to get this far the LPA must have had a number of “heated debates” with land owners, developers, interest groups and, of course, councillors.

It’s also a handy document for claims for costs in appeals.

By JohnMac

Anonymous 2.26, tourists!?…I’m sick of tourists, I want actual jobs in actual offices and real infrastructure and apartments…tourists?..we’ve got enough of them.

By Anonymous

I would be delighted with a few 50 story buildings. Labour will be in power this time next year so the council have no excuses anymore.

By Mr Scouser

Interesting how the 4 tests are summarised in 4 short sentences that make it sound so simple. Quite apart from the restrictiveness that the policy is imparting, the document itself is reams and reams of complex policy, stuffed full of extra assessments, tests, analyses and commentary that applicants are expected to respond to. We should not forget that ‘tall’ in Liverpool’s eyes is 1.5x the local context height. So in some areas, and 6 storey building will require wind assessments, VIA, sunlight/daylight, overshadowing, justification for the height and responses and analyses of a whole load of other things. It is totally disproportionate and unnecessary and developers will simply go elsewhere for that alone!

By Anonymous

@Elephant…immediately recognised by whom outside of this country exactly ?

By Dave

In some cases the councillors and planners will be able to refer to the “local plan” when deciding what is a tall building. The local plan describes tall as 1.5 times the height generally present in an area, but where an area, say in the 1950s or 60s had tenements of say 9 or 10 stories and these were pulled down and replaced with bungalows or 2 storey houses then a tall building then becomes 2.5 or 5 storeys. Or if a whole area has been cleared and become a wasteland then 1.5 times 0 equals 0.
I see problems ahead.

By Anonymous

I mean it’s Liverpool… why do people think 50+ story buildings are gonna be built there. It makes no sense sorry to break it to you

By Anonymous

“The impacts on sensitivities have been fully considered”. Meaningless. “We fully considered the bungalow mafia’s concerns and decided to ignore them” is not going to happen. This gives a basis for the LPA to refuse any tall building because of a few objectors.


How much has all this cost ? Don’t we have a planning department without need for this. We could just say NO to such plans , simple.


These tall buildings are just a blot on the landscape they are ugly and we have seen them making cities look like concrete and glass lego buildings you walk past them and without looking up because there is nothing interesting to see. I THINK FIFTY STORIES IS TO HIGH! .

By Anonymous

50 floor cap? Bit small isn’t it? Manchester are leaps and bounds ahead with their 60+ floors in terms of modernisation and investment. Deasngate square looks amazing, even the quality of their cladding looks better than anything in Liverpool. Liverpool, always second fiddle.

By David Clarke

The centre of Liverpool and its waterfront has been ruined with all the ugly,tall concrete/glass buildings.

By Anonymous

Height is one thing, but real quality design is what is needed to continue to enhance the waterfront. Really wouldn’t want what they have done in Manchester on the waterfront which are tall yes, and have impressive bulk, but vary very little in design and form from one to the next, very tombstone like blocks that don’t create much distinction. All cities will build tall over time, but we must strive for better quality designs that a blank faced 60-story cuboid.

By Crow

@elephant I’d say Newcastle and Edinburgh would have pretty recognisable skylines as well – or bridge/castlelines 😉

By Levelling Up Manager

Levelling Up Manager. I did say England. I agree Edinburgh is instantly recognisable.Newcastle, that is debatable. I doubt someone in America would recognise the Quayside before the Three Graces.

By Elephant

Let’s be realistic, no one in America would likely recognise either Liverpool or Newcastle. Pretending the skyline is world famous when it’s not is just delusional and damaging to the city’s prospects as it gives those with an anti-development stance the perfect excuse to foist more onerous conditions on developers. It’s completely self defeating.

By Anonymous

Cubes, stepbacks, even round, that’s what Manchester has built when they go tall. A varied skyline is a good thing. At least in the above they are thinking of zoning them properly and building them in clusters which is exactly the right way to go, nobody is suggesting blocking the Graces or sticking them in the Georgian quarter. It shouldn’t be beyond the wit of any council to see the wisdom of doing this. Getting it all to cost in and making them ‘sustainable’ these that going to be the challenge.

By Simon

The majority of comments on this issue seem to clamour for every development in Liverpool to be of very tall buildings. Is there current demand to fill all these putative skyscrapers? I have nothing against tall buildings per se or of clusters of such; good designed and well placed tall buildings can make for a sense of excitement in the urban environment, but surely good design and sensitivity to the existing urban fabric are the first considerations in any development regardless of height? Do we really want every city to look the same with multiple towers crowded together in the central area, obliterating any significant sense of place, whether that be Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham etc
Most recent and current developments in Liverpool (of whatever height) seem to fail on this good design test.

By Vitruvius

Most of the tall buildings in Manchester are on the industrial wastelands that once surrounded the old CBD. They don’t impinge on Victorian Manchester, much of which has been lovingly restored,

By Leasignoranceplease

@Vitruvius “surely good design and sensitivity to the existing urban fabric are the first considerations in any development regardless of height?”

Actually no. The first consideration is economic or the principle of supply and demand. Cities are not museums, they’re economic entities first and foremost, being the manifestation of economic activity. Otherwise what is the point of cities existing? Therefore, no conditions should be imposed that make development unviable. Only then can you consider applying conditions to mediate the physical, social, environmental impact of development.

By Anonymous

Most people here clearly haven’t lived IN city centre; already the wind is horrific near anything over 30 stories. Likewise, glass and cement look terrible and are horrendous environmentally.

Be brave, build high-density liveable spaces. Look at old Liverpool, look at Netherlands, look at Japan. Community can’t exist in a giant glass block – you’re just inviting foreign investors to price yourself out.

By Meh

It’s the cluster around Owen St that doesn’t look great in Manchester. However that is just one small corner of the city centre. Generally Manchester new builds far exceeds Liverpools in terms of quality.

By Anonymous

The more one reads of this policy the more it reminds of Chamberlain in 1939, thinking an agreement was made but not worth the paper it’s written on. Too many promises about being open to tall buildings but reading between the lines so many subjective barriers available to refuse them.
Note too the councillor most mentioned in the article does not have a good record of supporting development that does not comply with his principles.

By Anonymous

Meh, look at Japan?! Try Tokyo ..tell it me it doesn’t do tall buildings.

By Anonymous

technically radio city tower is only 5 storeys… so there is hope Liverpool could have a skyscraper someday!! :’)

I wont hold my breath for Liverpool having any kind of half decent Skyline in the next 30 years, as for anyone complaining about the current “tall” buildings in Liverpool… all they need to do is look across the Mersey at the Wirral and tell us how great you think that skyline is… LOL

By Anonymous

I can’t believe they’re even considering this. Look at what was a beautiful skyline in the main image – completely ruined by the modern builds. No wonder UNESCO booted us. I wouldn’t mind if the policy was transporting us into a new era of Liverpool’s history but I don’t think it’s really doing that, is it?

By Anonymous

The devil is in the detail and councillors will still have the options to reject developments based on trivia and subjectivity plucked out of thin air, they will just frustrate big developers who will just walk away.

By Anonymous

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