“DISASTROUS DECISION FOR FUTURE OF LIVERPOOL’S PROM”
• CAMPAIGN “AMAZED AT COMPLACENCY IN FACE OF APARTMENT MARKET COLLAPSE”
• THE 10 ACRES OF WATERFRONT WOODLAND NOW FACE AXE FOR MORE APARTMENTS
• CAMPAIGN WILL “FIGHT ON TO ENSURE DEVELOPER STICKS TO PARK COMMITMENTS”
July 10 2008…Response of the Save the Festival Gardens Campaign to the Inspector’s Report on the Langtree McLean scheme for the Festival Site (Ref: APP/Z4310/V/07/1201807) and the Secretary of State’s go-ahead for the proposed property development:
“The Secretary of State’s decision to give the go-ahead for a series of huge apartment blocks on the waterfront – and for the cutting down of the 10 acres of waterfront woodlands – is clearly a terrible disappointment to us all and a disastrous decision for the future of Liverpool’s prom.”
“The approval of yet another luxury apartment scheme comes at an extraordinary time given the current state of the market for these developments – and given the current state of the construction industry.”
“Two major developments already lie half-started and abandoned on the Liverpool waterfront – and have done for many months. Liverpool Council’s complacency at the state of the market is only equalled by their inability to do anything about the blight on areas of the city caused by half-built projects abandoned by businesses that have gone into administration.”
HARM TO THE PROM
“We note that on many individual points the Inspector has agreed with the campaign’s objections to the development – not least that: “overall, the effect of the proposed scheme on the character and appearance of the whole promenade would be harmful”.
“It is our intention to monitor closely the developer’s handling of the site – especially with regard to the commitment that a Waterfront Park would be delivered ahead of construction work on flats – in the hope of minimizing the harm that is now scheduled.”
“Members will be reviewing the report in detail over the next few days to decide how best to continue our campaign to save the landscape and the wildlife of the Festival Gardens from this unnecessary property development.”
DANGER CREDIT CRUNCH WILL DELIVER ANOTHER BLIGHTED SITE ON WATERFRONT
Two major developments currently lie abandonned on the Waterfront: the nearby 14-storey Columbus Quay scheme (101 apartments – where work had been halted for some eight months with the basic framework of the first six storeys); and the partly-started Baltic Triangle scheme in the City centre (851 apartments work halted in June 2006 with basic concrete foundations and lift wells).
More than 4,756 apartments were in line to come on the City centre market in the first half of this year – with a further 3,653 awaiting planning approval.
The Campaign questioned the sanity of putting at risk all these urban schemes - which are replacing urban dereliction and blight - all for a greenfield development that requires cutting down the City’s only woodland on the waterfront.
It would be a double disaster if the woods are cut down only to be replaced with landscape of rusting scaffolding and rotting concrete foundations.
Matters are made worse by the fact that the Langtree MacLean scheme has such a disproportionate emphasis on the already over-supplied market sector of one and two bedroom flats.
Just ahead of the Inquiry Liverpool’s Council announced that it was proposing new ‘guidelines’ to limit the over-provision of single bedroom apartments in Liverpool by recommending a 40% maximum on these apartments.
Critics contrasted Liverpool’s tentative approach to that of Salford (Manchester) where the council has a requirement that 10% of apartments have to be three-bedroom units to ensure a proper balance of tenures for sustainable developments.
In comparison with no three-bedroom apartment provision; - and just 66 townhouses offering only 5% provision of equivalent size - the campaign argued that the Langtree McLean scheme was ‘a housing disaster in the making’.
HOUSING A KEY ISSUE AT INQUIRY
A key issue for the Inquiry was whether the scheme complied with Government Housing Policy. This was a much debated point in the light of the government’s move in recent years that planning be far more flexible about the ‘green belt’ to meet the urgent demand for affordable housing.
The campaign argued that the purpose of the Government’s approach was to provide more affordable housing; specifically for the south-east faced with a vast shortage of housing:
• In contrast the Langtree McLean scheme was designed to provide ‘luxury apartments’ without any ‘affordable housing’ provision.
• Liverpool far from having a housing shortage was faced with an over-supply of one and two-bedroom apartments which was beginning to undermine the City’s progress to Urban Regeneration.
The campaign argued that it would be a travesty of the Government’s intentions if a new interpretation of green belt policy was to be cynically used to provide a loophole for developers to build luxury apartments wherever a compliant Council allowed.
REAL TEST OF THE INTEGRITY OF POLICY
The campaign argued that the case of the Festival Gardens was a real test of the integrity of Government policy:
It is a test the Government have unfortunately failed.
• The scheme involved a huge urban development (1300+ apartments) but actually provided no affordable housing benefit.
• Its scale and ‘greenfield advantage’ would damage the process of urban regeneration and housing provision elsewhere in the City – especially the Liverpool 8 area.
• The scheme involved building on a coastal site of great landscape and ecological value – made all the more important by being the only undeveloped area in the 7½ miles of the Liverpool docklands coast.
If a proven area of great ecological and landscape importance such as Liverpool’s Festival Gardens could be sacrificed to the property developers for such little housing benefit then England’s green belt really does face a grim future.
THE 10 ACRES OF WATERFRONT WOODLAND NOW FACE THE AXE
The trees in the 10 acres of woodland directly alongside the prom – which are now to be cut down for the waterfront apartment blocks – include a spectacular range of some 53 species species providing both a beautiful landscape and food and shelter to more than 100 species of birds – with more than 30 species breeding in the woodlands:
This woodland waterfront – now to be cut down – is the only area on the prom where trees come down to the riverside walk.
Enjoy it while you can - it may well be cut down as preparatory work long before any actual development begins.
It's what Warren Bradley, Liverpool's Council Leader, calls a 'victory for common sense".
Grim Outlook for the Prom?
The first witness the campaign called at the Public Inquiry into the future of the Liverpool's Festival Gardens was able to give a shocking view of what Langtree McLean's proposed apartment development would look like from the riverside walk.
John Davies, a noted landscape photographer and Save the Festival Gardens Campaigner, provided a 'to-scale' photo-montage showing the length and the height of the apartment 'finger blocks' which will overlook the prom.
[As the actual design of the apartment blocks is yet to be finalised the picture shows just the silhouettes of the building dimensions for which the 'outline' planning permission had been sought.]
As well as revealing the 'concrete curtain' impact caused by the considerable length of the finger bocks the montage provided a strong contrast to the amazingly 'unobtrusive' views of the apartment blocks which Langtree McLean had offered in their evidence.
A multitude of Langtree McLean pictures all happened to be taken from a convenient distance, with the bulk of the buildings conveniently cropped by the edge of photographs or luckily hidden behind occasional trees.
Co-incidentally Langtree McLean's expensive computer-aided visual 'fly-thru' of the development which had been used in company publicity and been shown as evidence at the Inquiry also stopped just at the prom without looking along the prom to show the impact of the apartment blocks on the riverside walk.
In cross-examination David Rollinson, of Spaworth Associates who had been responsible for Langtree McLean's consultation process which included the fly-thru and other visual aids said that it was 'unfortunate' that consultation and evidence had not included closer-up views along the prom.
When it was pointed out that the visual impact of the apartments on the prom had been continually raised as an issue of concern by the Save the Festival Gardens campaign since April 2007 he confirmed that he had nevertheless not considered adding closer views nor adding further footage to the digital 'fly-thru'.
Mr. Stephen Sauvain QC, representing Langtree McLean challenged John Davies qualifications to produce the photo montage - and Mr. Davies answered at length regarding the method he had used to ensure the accuracy of the image.
Significantly Langtree McLean did not choose to provide a visual 'rebuttal' of Mr. Davies evidence with a montage of what they would have regarded as a more accurate picture of the apartment blocks seen from this part of the prom.
You can draw your own conclusions from that omission.
The Inspector drew the following conclusions: "[from para 538 of the report..."his are the only large prints attempting to show what the
buildings would look like and the Applicants made no claims for the accuracy of
the picture on their own leaflet. I also note that they did not produce any sort of images to rival or correct Mr Davies. Even if his images are not completely correct representations in every respect, they are all we have and they do indicate what FGC fear and oppose.
539. On this basis and after studying the plans, I have no hesitation in agreeing that the finger blocks would have a very substantial visual and physical presence when seen from the Promenade....
540. ...taken all together, I consider that the character and appearance of the
western end of the Promenade would be harmed by the intrusion of the finger
Well at least the Campaign managed to make one of our objections crystal clear - thanks again to John Davies. Pictures clearly are worth a thousand words.
CAMPAIGN CASE IN BRIEF
More information on other key witnesses and a summary of the main points of the case is available on the Public Inquiry Link in the menu below.