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Campaign to save Kirkdale Dock goes global!

THE battle to save historic West Waterloo Dock has won widespread support across the UK and Europe.

Plans to fill in the dock — which was the major embarkation point for millions of travellers to America in the 19th century — were first revealed in December 2018. Developer Romal — owned by Australian multi-millionaire Greg Malouf — wanted to build six tower blocks of 646 Yuppie flats on the site.

Liverpool City Council originally set itself a target date for reaching a decision on the plans of April 1st, 2019. But, almost 11 months later, those plans have still not gone before the Planning Committee.

The main reason for the delay has been the Save Waterloo Dock campaign, made up of local residents and a wide cross section of people concerned about the threat to the city’s heritage. More than 3,000 people have signed a petition demanding that the plans are rejected. Protests have been held at the Town Hall and the Council HQ in the Cunard Building.

Those protests won a minor victory last November, when the developer put forward amended plans to reduce the number of blocks to four, and the number of flats to 538.

But critics soon realised that the impact of the new plans in blocking out views into the city’s World Heritage Site would be far worse, as the footprint of each block would be much wider than those in the original proposals, effectively creating a 10-storey wall of brick and glass on the river bank, blocking out views of the Stanley Dock and Waterloo Warehouses.

When the original plans were announced, developer Malouf had promised a “little Amsterdam” on the banks of the Mersey, bringing families back to the waterfront and creating “real communities”. But closer inspection of his new plans revealed that 70% of the flats would be one bedroom units, which are clearly not what families need. And they are clearly not what Kirkdale — one of the poorest wards in the country — needs to begin to resolve its housing crisis.

Opponents of the amended scheme had just over a month to send in their objections to the council, but the tight deadline did not deter the protesters. By the deadline of January 6, EVERY major heritage organisation across the UK and Europe had formally objected to Planning Application 18F/3247. They each had several grounds for opposing the scheme, and this brief selection of quotes offers an indication of some of the issues they raised:

"The proposed development does not conform to the parameters of the Liverpool Waters outline permission and differs from the recently approved Central Docks Neighbourhood Masterplan. "

HISTORIC ENGLAND: Considers that the proposed infill of West Waterloo Dock “negatively impacts on the contribution West Waterloo Dock makes to the significance of the heritage assets… rendering the application contrary to national and local policies.”

SAVE BRITAIN’S HERITAGE: (The amended proposals) “do not address our fundamental concern, which is the substantial harm that would occur from infilling West Waterloo Dock . . . (and infilling) sets a dangerous precedent for the survival of the historically significant maritime heritage in Liverpool.”

THE GEORGIAN GROUP: “The proposed works would have an adverse impact on the setting of the East Waterloo Corn Warehouse, the Tobacco Warehouse and Stanley Dock and a single view of the Royal Liver Building. (We) object to the proposed infill and to the scale and height of the proposed development.”

THE VICTORIAN SOCIETY: (We) “are not opposed in principle to development in Liverpool, but . . . the outstanding value of the city’s heritage merits new architectural work of the highest quality. (Our) primary reason for objecting to this scheme remains the very poor quality of the proposed architecture” (which is) “bland and forgettable”.

EUROPA NOSTRA UK: “The harm (to the location) is not relatively minor, as noted in the heritage assessment, but must be considered to be much higher and given much greater weight in the decision making process . . . the proposal is contrary to policy and guidance and should be refused.”

And it is not only heritage groups which have raised concerns. Liverpool City Council asked for the views of Merseyside Environmental Advisory Service. MEAS responded:”We do not consider the Environmental Statement (submitted by the developer) can be used as a basis for determination of the application. The current proposals . . . are of a type that does not necessarily require a dockside location.”

And even Liverpool City Council Planning Department itself warned: “The proposed development does not conform to the parameters of the Liverpool Waters outline permission and differs from the recently approved Central Docks Neighbourhood Masterplan. (Letter to Peel Land and Property, dated 29/11/2019 — posted on LCC Planning Portal).

Can all these “experts” possibly be wrong?
Sadly, we already know what will happen if these critics are ignored. The 43rd Session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in Baku, Azerbaijan, in Summer 2019, took the highly unusual step of specifically referring to “developments…. by different developers in West Waterloo Dock” among its major concerns.

And it concludes that, although Liverpool remains on the “In Danger” list, UNESCO will “consider its deletion from the World Heritage List at its 44th Session in (summer) 2020”