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Lime Street plans could further endanger World Heritage Site

Disappointment over Liverpool Council’s decision to approve controversial plans to demolish historic Lime Street buildings including the locally listed 1912 Futurist cinema.

The Futurist, Lime Street, Liverpool

The Victorian Society has expressed its disappointment over Liverpool Council’s decision to approve controversial plans to demolish historic Lime Street buildings including the locally listed 1912 Futurist cinema. The ‘buffer zone’ of Liverpool’s World Heritage Site requires a more sympathetic scheme. Last month, Unesco requested a moratorium on new development affecting Liverpool’s World Heritage Site until December 2016.

Victorian Society Conservation Advisor, James Hughes, said: ‘The Society understands the need to invest in Lime Street as an entrance to Liverpool. However, granting approval for these damaging plans within the buffer zone of the World Heritage Site is a mistake. It is especially hard to understand this move following Unesco’s request for a moratorium on developments to safeguard Liverpool’s World Heritage Site status. Liverpool Council is jeopardising the historic environment which makes Liverpool so special. We urge the developers to reconsider these plans and bring forward a more sympathetic scheme which respects both the Futurist cinema, the surrounding listed buildings and the World Heritage Site.

The ‘Lime Street Gateway’ project is intended to revitalise the area around Liverpool’s main station and create the ‘vibrant place that its prominent position demands’. However, given its context, the scheme is destructive and crudely over-scaled. Almost the entire street between the two listed pubs will be carved out, resulting in the loss of a varied but coherent run of pleasingly-proportioned, finely detailed historic buildings. They will be replaced with monolithic blocks - their glass fronts etched with the ghosts of the lost buildings. Not even the fine terracotta façade of the locally listed Futurist Cinema will survive this blundering attempt at urban regeneration. The Victorian Society strongly objected to the plans arguing that it would cause serious and unjustified harm to Liverpool’s historic environment including the settings of the adjacent conservation area and numerous listed buildings.

Only two sites on Unesco’s list of World Heritage in Danger are located in Europe. One is the Maritime Mercantile City of Liverpool and the other is in war torn Kosovo. Lime Street is within Liverpool’s World Heritage Site’s ‘buffer zone’ -  an area designed to protect the World Heritage Site’s visual setting. Lime Street contributes to the setting of the World Heritage Site and plays an important role in views in and out of it. The view of the Grade I-listed St George’s Hall, one of Europe’s best examples of neo-classical architecture, along Lime Street is a ‘Defined View’ which the Council’s Supplementary Planning Document explicitly states should be preserved. Allowing the redevelopment within the buffer zone is especially concerning given Unesco’s request in July that no new detailed plans affecting the World Heritage Site should be approved before 1 December 2016.

Liverpool is no stranger to planning controversy. Earlier this year, the then Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, blocked a plan to demolish 271 Victorian terraces in Liverpool’s ‘Welsh streets’ after a public inquiry.

Further UNESCO documents on Liverpool can be found here.

 

Wednesday 12 August, 2015

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