Peel Group's £5.5bn scheme to regenerate 150 acres of dock land in north Liverpool has been approved by the city council's planning committee.
The approval of an outline application will now be referred to the Government to decide if it requires a public inquiry. The similarly ambitious Wirral Waters on the other side of the Mersey was approved by Wirral Council in August 2010 and was not called in for a public inquiry. Peel submitted the Liverpool Waters planning application in autumn 2010.
Cllr Joe Anderson, leader of Liverpool City Council, said after Tuesday's committee meeting: "Today's decision to grant planning permission for Liverpool Waters is one of the most significant and far-reaching made in Liverpool's recent history.
"It is a vote of confidence in a new beginning of a great city.
"The scale of what is being proposed is breath-taking – it represents a five and half billon pound investment to create thousands of jobs, provide new housing and attract new businesses and more visitors to the city. It is a scheme which is unprecedented in its ambition, scope and potential to regenerate a city."
Peel first mooted the idea of skyscrapers on the banks of the Mersey six years ago and has faced lengthy battles with English Heritage and Unesco over design, views and height standards affecting the city's World Heritage sites such as Pier Head and the cathedrals.
Anderson rebuffed the concerns, adding: "Liverpool has to grow and redevelop if we are to thrive and succeed in the future. We do not live in the past, we are not a museum. I care passionately about the future of Liverpool and the opportunities and life chances we give our children. Today's decision is for future generations. The new investment, businesses and employment opportunities Liverpool waters will bring is the future for our city.
"In arriving at their decision the city council's planning committee considered a very comprehensive report which thoroughly examined all the issues concerned and listened to a number of different presentations from both supporters and objectors and visited the site themselves.
"Everybody – including the committee – is well aware of the concerns about heritage, but we can have the strikingly modern, while retaining our world heritage status. I have never regarded this as being "either, or".
"With the safeguards the planning committee has insisted on, we can have Liverpool Waters living comfortably alongside the World Heritage Site.
"If this application had been rejected then we would have been left with huge stretches of derelict dockland cheek-by-jowel with our World Heritage site. Instead we now have the prospect of one of the most ambitious schemes ever seen in this country taking shape – it is one that will transform Liverpool's fortunes for future generations."
Liverpool One, Grosvenor's retail-led regeneration of Liverpool city centre, welcomed the decision to approve Liverpool Waters.
Miles Dunnett, head of asset management, Grosvenor Liverpool Fund, said: "We support the Council's decision and welcome the scale and ambition of Liverpool Waters. It will be yet another catalyst and milestone in the regeneration of both the city and wider Liverpool region, and its positive impact on perceptions of the city are likely to be even farther reaching.
"The boldness of the design and the diversity of the offer will add significantly to Liverpool's appeal, further increasing its attractiveness to businesses and adding an exciting element to the quality of life available in the city centre."
No one from Peel was immediately available for comment.